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21st Century Education

August 23, 2007

Hey PS 124 Staff,

Hope you all are enjoying your summers. I just read an article on PBS’s Learning.now, an ed-tech blog by Andy Carvin, responding to the issue of the DOE denying access to some Internet sites, like YouTube, in schools. Carvin questions whether the blocking process limits teachers’ ability to educate students sufficiently to become active and informed citizens in our democratic process.

Some of you will relate to the blocking debate having been denied access to sites like pbskids.org or goafrica.com last year (see 3-307’s ACCESS DENIED video and blog post). That aside, I wanted to share some of the ideas in this to get you psyched up about the value of what we’re doing by having students participate in the emerging culture of “user-contributed” content on the Internet, through blogging and other “social networking” tools.

I know my delivery of the following idea is heavy, but it’s why The Media Spot exists 🙂 …

Teaching students to publish their writing to one of the PS 124 blogs is a simple way to incorporate technology in the curriculum that can have a great impact on students’ “media literacy”, and understanding of the digital world we live in.

For instance, anyone (like students at PS 124) with access to an Internet connection can publish their opinions on the Internet. As one of PS 124’s primary research tools, it is critical for students to be aware when searching the web, that sources are not necessarily accurate by virtue of being “published”. There is no governing body of academics editing what we or anyone writes on the internet, and no librarian selecting what websites are good or bad, as we can assume to be the case for books in our library for example. It’s a different way of gathering information, and kids at PS 124 need to understand that at an appropriate level. The experience of publishing to blogs, with emphasis on the importance of accuracy and citation, and distinguishing student opinions from facts in their posts are ways they can constructively start to gain that understanding.

Communicating through the Internet also allows students to realize the potential for their voice to reach virtually anywhere on the planet — demonstrated by the unsolicited comments we received from school kids in Scotland. Blogging exercises can help you introduce these issues to kids at 124, and help them become informed participants in what is becoming the dominant medium of communication in our society.

The following quote from Learning.Now , I think, highlights the importance:

Historically, many of us who have embraced this notion of active citizenship have done it in traditional ways – participating in local politics, raising money for charities we care about, creating petitions or community groups to seek some sort of policy change, writing letters to the editor, etc. Increasingly, though, activities such as these are taking place online. The Internet, and Web 2.0 tools in particular, make it easier than ever for people to make a difference and become civically engaged. And as an equal-opportunity mass distribution channel, the Net lets all of us reach a potentially enormous audience, whether to influence others or rally people in support of our civic causes.

But you can’t do any of this without certain skills. If you lack the technical skills to utilize these communications tools, you can’t participate online and catalyze civic influence. And if you lack the media literacy skills to understand how other people are creating content or what their underlying motivations are, you face the possibility of being manipulated. As Spiderman learned again and again, with great power comes great responsibility. The Internet is a powerful tool, and if you don’t learn how to use it effectively, you yourself may end up being used.

Our blogs are up! I’m here to help you get comfortable using them! See you in September!!!

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