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I considered taking today off from writing a post; however, an issue concerning digital literacy occurred in my classroom this week that needed to be addressed. There are two ways that I process things, by talking and by writing. In fact, today on the Two Writing Teachers call for Slices, there is this quote, “Writing floats on a sea of talk.” Britton. This weekend my sea of talk was with my father and with my Voxer writing group. Both helped me think in a deeper and more logical way about what happened.
My students use Kidblogs daily. They have since the first day of school. As a teacher of multi-grade gifted students, blogging is the way I encourage individuality and independence. One of the many advantages is that students can continue to work on their writing projects outside of class and when I am not at school. Last week I had an inservice, so I wasn’t at school. When I checked the blogs, I discovered that one student had “hacked” another student’s blog and wrote a post about it. I know she was just being playful, but I took it seriously. I commented to this student personally and removed the post. I also had a conversation with the whole class about trust.
When we read posts, we assume that the person who owns the blog wrote the post. I explained that I get an email whenever there is any activity on our Kidblog. I am watching, but more importantly, hacking is wrong. It breaks our trust and messes with the community we have built.
Another more serious incident occurred. As I have mentioned, I teach different grade levels, so my students have social lives with their grade level peers that our class is not a part of. There is safety in our community to talk about and write about things outside of our class. One student wrote a post about a conflict she was having with friends. Fairly typical sixth grade social issue; however, a 5th grader decided to take the matter into her own hands. She printed the post and gave it to one of the sixth grade girls. This post made the rounds all the way to the assistant principal. Not the intended audience of the original post.
When we write on a blog, the world can take our work and use it for any purpose, whether or not it is our intent. This is the reality of digital writing. This reality hit home this week. No real harm was done, but trust was compromised. Our classroom community was broken.
My father (wise as he is) pointed out that my students were able to fail in the safety of my care. Making mistakes is part of the learning process. Breaking trust is part of life. We will all do it at some point. What better way for my students to learn the dangers of digital writing than in the safe environment of school and class blogging?
I could make new rules: no hacking, no printing, but rules will not keep kids form being kids. My friend Julianne talked about the reins of control, how we let them go and then tighten them up. Push and pull. This digital world is amazing and wild and wonderful. We need to be able to fail and pick up the pieces, move on, and be wiser.
Trust is a powerful word. Trust is fragile. Trust is difficult to build and easy to shatter. Luckily, my students were not harmed by their breaches of trust, and they learned an important lesson. These are not the kinds of lessons teachers can design or plan on. My first reaction was disappointment. How could they do this? In reflection and conversation, I realize that all will be well as my little ones maneuver their way through this digital world.
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