Teaching Young Students to use Technology Responsibly

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We need to prepare our students to act responsibly when the moment of stupidity arrives. We should not just hand students technology and expect them to use it responsibly. They are kids after all.

Here is a fictitious story to show my point: imagine three fifth grade students check out a Flip video camera to work on a class project during lunch recess. They want to show the principle of an arc by showing a student swinging on a swing. So here the three of them are out on the playground using their “21st Century Skills” to make an awesome little video that will help their classmates learn a new concept. The teacher back inside eating her lunch could not be prouder -- she incorporates tech into her lessons.
 
The shots get made and the three budding filmmakers go back to their regular recess play, with the Flip video camera tucked safely into one of their pockets.
 
However, a few minutes later a classmate slips in some hidden mud on the playground and she is now covered down her side in mud and crying, her pretty new jeans and jacket wrecked.
 
Grasping at the moment of opportunity, the one student with the Flip video camera starts to film the misfortune of his classmate. The mud covered girl runs inside to her teacher sobbing and humiliated. Minutes later the boy with the camera has a crowd around him as he replays the scene over and over again of the muddy girl for those who might have missed it. All the while commenting how he can't wait to get it on YouTube.
 
You can now imagine the scene over the next few hours: parents and students in the principal's office. “What were you thinking?” being said by parents, teachers, and administrators. And a young girl who never wants to come back to school. I think you get the picture.
 
How could something like this happen? What would make normally good students do something so bad?
 
Conditioning.
 
For years our children have been conditioned that if you really want to be popular with video (most views) then you need to show something embarrassing or rude. YouTube is full of these types of videos and there are even TV shows dedicated to this genre. I believe that part of teaching students how to use technology is to teach them how to use it responsibly. This goes for everything from blogging to video sharing. Aren't we all sick of people making rude comments on blogs and news stories? Don't get me wrong, I like a funny video just like the next person, but as we teach our students at our school; something is only funny if everyone involved thinks it is funny. We need to teach students that quality work can be popular too.
 
Sure there are Hollywood movies that are funny and rude and make a killing at the box office. But the movies that really move us and change us for the better are the really great movies. Funny is easy, but quality is hard. Our students can do quality work, we just need to teach them how and then expect them to do it.
 
Now back to the story fo the three fifth grade filmmaker. What can be done to prevent things like this happening in your school?
 
Here at Bethke Elementary students can only use technology without direct supervision of their teacher if they have a BETHKE STUDENT TECH PERMIT. I know it sounds very formal, but it is an easy to use document that helps to remind students to use tech responsibly. Our staff is trained that if they see a student using tech away from their teacher, they are to ask to see their permit.
 
You can see from the copy of our permit that the student must initial the statements that help them remember to use technology responsibly...
 
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