Digital Citizenship

On my way to work this morning, I was somewhat distracted (yes, I’ll admit it) thinking about what I would be presenting for a gathering of all the secondary social studies teachers in my district.  With three high schools and five middle schools, that group is fairly intimidating.

I had framed my presentation as engaging digital natives in the study of social studies.  I knew that I was going to address the learning profile of digital natives, the new literacies, and Web 2.0 tools (blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc.) – all topics that I have presented on numerous occasions to diverse audiences.

My district coordinator sent out a e-mail earlier this week reminding teachers that they were going to "to hear presentations from two distinguished speakers.  Both will answer your questions as well."

I am one of two speakers.  The other is Dr. Terry Madonna, director of Politics and Public Affairs and the Keystone Poll at Franklin and Marshall College.  Dr. Madonna is well-known.  I hear him on my way to work sometimes as his is frequently consulted by media outlets like NPR.  Thus, no one would question that the title of "distinguished" be conferred upon Dr. Madonna.

I, however, would not consider myself distinguished.   Actually, I now feel a sense of anxiety.  I don’t know if it is rational or not (perhaps, I should wait until I see how my presentation is received before I make that determination). 

For better or for worse, I have spent countless hours in the wake of that e-mail restructuring my presentation.  I decided to change the focus to digital citizenship and have my other components reinforce that larger topic.  I added to my resources information on the ways that Second Life, MySpace, and YouTube are being used as integral components in Campaign 2008.  I am using digital citizenship as a vehicle to engage the social studies teachers in a dialogue about the implications for this new political medium in 21st century classrooms.  I believe that one of the major goals of social studies education is to encourage responsible citizenship.  To that end, it is, therefore, incumbent upon us to address the new media outlets in our courses.  Blogs, wikis, podcasts, social networking . . . these are the modes by which many voters will make their political decisions.  Certainly, they will have some measure of influence on this and future elections.

Doug Johnson’s EdTechConnect webinar got me thinking.  He referenced a posting from Vicki Davis:

A hammer can kill someone but it can also build a house.

A nail can be driven through a hand but it can also hold the roof over your head.

A fist can hit but a fist can also be clasped in your hand in love.

We do not outlaw hammers, nails, or fists — we teach people to use them properly.

My anxiety with this presentation centers around my fear that teachers will simply not be at all receptive to the message that we must begin to incorporate technology into our instruction before we become totally irrelevant in the world of our digital native students.  Too many politicians, educators, parents, etc. believe that we must shelter our students from all the evils that can find them online.  Or, at least, we should do so in our schools. 

I have no idea how my message is going to be received.  As any ed-techie knows, we seem to be in a minority when it comes to embracing new technologies – or, rather, any technologies.  There exists a sense of evangelical missionizing with regard to ed tech. 

Back to my morning commute. . . I was listening to NPR Morning Edition.  Renee Montange was interviewing a Georgetown senior, James Kotecki, who has taken it upon himself to be an online-campaign-video critic.  He reviews the new videos posted on the YouTube You Choose ’08 channel and has even affected changes to the way that Congressman Dennis Kucinich frames his YouTube postings.  The interview also addressed the emergence and impact of a viral video featuring a "Big Brother" Hillary Clinton directing listeners back to Barack Obama’s web site.  By the way, the creator of that video has been fired from his job, but he did manage to create a political firestorm and his video will continue to be, in true viral fashion, circulated online for years to come.

Just prior to the Kotecki interview, Ms. Montange interviewed Ken Rudin and Ron Elving, the hosts of the NPR podcast, It’s All Politics.  They were asked why the current controversy surrounding the firing of federal prosecutors was the battlefield du jour.  Their response was the bloggers had kept the story alive and in the public eye for years. 

So, bloggers and amateur directors are not just being influenced by the new media, they are actual impacting politics directly. . . they are the actors, not just the audience.

Interesting . . . so, as I head off to my presentation (reflecting upon the morning news), I feel a little more confident that my message will provoke dialogue and ongoing reflection.


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