Now Recruiting: Responsible Cybercitizens of the World
Over the past century and a half, schools have evolved tremendously from the little one room schoolhouse model. In fact, education has grown so much in both resources and philosophy, that in my own family, my mother can’t keep up with my daughter’s homework, due to the generational divide. Of course, this is also a woman who doesn’t know how to open the attachments on her email, either. This illustrates my point, however, that today’s students are not only presented with more tools to use, and bombarded with information at nanospeeds, they are also expected to absorb and internalize much broader tracks of information, and in more depth.
One thing that has not changed, however, is that teachers are not only responsible for the academic prowess of their students. All adown the annals of time, teachers have also been responsible to build and shape the character of our young people, in partnership with their parents. It is in our literature, it is reinforced in our families, and has always been thus: teachers mold the civility of our society.
With the introduction of technologies in the classroom, this responsibility has grown graver. In fact, it is an imperative that while teachers are using technology to help lessons, to guide research and to build presentations, they also instill in our young people the sense of what it means to be a responsible citizen, digitally. We teach our children to look both ways before crossing the street; by the same token, we need to make sure they know to conduct themselves safely while navigating the internet.
We at Voki, and many other educational technology software companies as well, work to keep our students safe. Some features that help us teach internet safety to students are:
Self-contained classroom dashboards so that students can interact with each other, and view each other’s work, but they are not available on the web for anyone else to see
The use of customizable avatars that can represent a student, without actually using their photo, name or even voice, which helps protect their identity
A teacher or administrator license that can manage the accounts and view account activity, which helps in curtailing cyberbullying and keeping students accountable for their digital behaviors
Additionally, teachers today face many more challenges in the classroom aside from their curriculum. With the multiple intelligences functioning simultaneously in the room, and students that require extra scaffolding, the classroom has historically never been as diverse and heterogeneous as is today. The uniqueness of media in assisting struggling students has opened up new vistas of success for these students.
For example, one of our strongest media literacy advocates and most prolific content writers shareda story with us of a student who was very shy, and was diagnosed with selective mutism. He would sit in the classroom and not participate or interact with anyone. The second trimester of the year, she introduced Voki to the classroom as a technology tool, using it as a building block in the digital learning curriculum. The very next day, the student had sent her a link to a presentation. When she opened it up on the smartboard, it was a speaking wizard, who introduced the student to the class, and spoke of his hobbies, likes and dislikes, and broke the ice for the child in making friends with his classmates. The teacher was effusive in the difference this tool made in this young man’s life. It allowed him to interact safely with others, and literally gave him his “voice”.
The idea of educating our children in media literacy is a multi-faceted proposition. We have to enable them to interact responsibly as digital citizens, teach them to stay safe and sometimes empower them to overcome their challenges.
Na’ama Y. Rosenberg is a former educator and school administrator, and is currently the Director of Content Development at Voki, an EdTech tool that allows teachers and students to create their very own digital talking avatar. Follow @OfficialVoki on Twitter and Facebook.
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