First Publish in a Safe Place

The Thunder Bay Region had The Symposium for eLearning in Northwestern Ontario (SeLNO) this week in Thunder Bay. I didn’t attend, but I was happy to watch things happening on Twitter (#SeLNO) whenever I had a chance to dip into it. A quick conversation about blogging using D2L caught my eye:

It got me thinking about how “global” we ask students to be when they’re learning about social media, Web 2.0, etc. I posted:

I was thinking about a recent experience in a grade 7/8 class. The students were exploring Blended Learning for the first time, and as a first discussion prompt we asked, “Describe your digital self: how much about the “real you” do you put on the Internet?”

Their answers surprised me a little. About half of the class didn’t “publish” – no Facebook account, no Twitter, no anything. They were consumers of content, and they would use instant chat services, but they expressed nothing that was likely to be “permanent”. The other half published (usually to Facebook, although they didn’t think of it as publishing when I asked them), but most of those students didn’t put any really personal information out there.

That was a little bit heartening for me, and I started thinking about how best to train the students to become responsible publishers in a Web 2.0 world. I’m happy to have my thoughts be globally accessible, partly because I want to encourage a broad dialogue and partly because I’m confident I won’t make any damaging mistakes. If I had 12-year-old child, I think I might have some concerns with their thoughts being broadcast, unchecked, across the web.

That’s why a secure, password-protected environment like the Learning Management System that e-Learning Ontario provides (Desire2Learn) makes sense, especially for that first online publishing experience. It’s a great place to train students how to write, what to write, and what not to write. When they make a mistake, we can help them fix it. Let’s prepare them for the real world by playing in the backyard a little bit first. I don’t think it has to take long, and we certainly won’t be able to prevent them from striking out on their own without us (nor do we want to, I’d argue). But let’s give them some guidelines, strategies and cautionary principles first. Then we’ll escort them out into the wild, and finally set them free.

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