So do the "what if’s" keep us from doing anything?

Darren Kuropatwa's Post today has me thinking.  Darren says:

I've been using delicious in my classes to have students aggregate and share content since November 2005. What is described above, while I recognize it COULD happen, has never happened to me in the last 3 years. This sort of action strikes me as particularly pernicious and malicious…

Lots of food for thought in this. To be completely frank, I see this discussion as more of an intellectual exercise than something that might actually happen. Some teachers may feel that my perspective is naive. Fair enough. Then again, I teach in an inner city school and I've been blogging with my classes going on 5 years.

So, in this case, someone is arguing with Darren — well, what if a kid goes home and bookmarks porn?
I'd like to add — what happens if a kid brings a porn mag to school?  Has that NEVER happened?  When it does, what do you do?  How do you deal with it and why is this scenario any different.

Online Spaces Leave Indelible Traces

Honestly, if a child messes up, I'd almost rather them mess up in one of my PRIVATE online spaces.  Then, there is no he said/ she said.

Every student has their ID with their password. 

Bring a porn mag to school and have the principal find it in a locker and no one claims it.  Bookmark a porn site, and boom, I've gotcha, buddy.

Your ID is your responsibility
I tell my students that if their ID is used for illicit activity, then they are responsible.  Every student has their own ID in grades 6-12.  They log on and off of every machine and save their files from the server.

This has exponentially cut down on innappropriate screen savers and backgrounds — IT DOESN”T HAPPEN ANY MORE.  They have accountability and responsibility.  And if they mess up, it goes on the discipline ladder.  Period.

Online behavior MUST have offline consequences
Teachers are telling me that when things happen at their schools that either:

  1. Administrators don't understand it and so they get rid of the tool and refuse to discipline the child.
  2. Parents don't take time to understand what their child did and blame the technology.
  3. Or both.

And the kid who did it laughs at the “dumb” parent or admin knowing full well they did something wrong.

Right is right and wrong is wrong.  When two kids are in the hall together, one is going to do something to the other and you're going to have to deal with it.  Do we get rid of the halls?  Do we tell the kids they can't come to school because there is going to be a problem?

Demonizing the Tools
Tools are neither angels nor demons.  A violin can be a screechy earsore, or a beautiful, heavenly sounding instrument — it is in the hands of the artist.

It is what we do with the tools that counts.

And if a child does something innappropriate, it is their responsibility and they MUST be held accountable.

Watch the Screen
With this being said, I think that any computer lab that is set up so the teacher can't see every screen is asking for trouble. 

I know of a person who told me that their Internet was taken down because somehow a student got on a porn site FOR AN HOUR during another teachers class.

I'm sorry, but where was the teacher.  So, we're going to punish the whole school because a teacher wasn't doing his job? 

Did the student get suspended for 3 days?  Did the teacher get suspended?

Is THIS the fault of the Internet? 


I'm sorry, but sorry teachers who don't do their job need to find another one.  And if this teacher is a good coach, as in this case, let them coach and do something else during the daytime.

However, I also blame the administrators and others who didn't deal with the problem – the student and the teacher.  Issues like this seem so black and white to me. 

The Internet is here to stay just like automobiles, scissors, and human beings.

We don't get rid of streets because cars crash there, scissors are in our schools in age appropriate ways, and human beings are here to stay also —

The difference is that the Internet is new and many kids are more savvy than their teachers. 

Time to Move Forward

Computers in schools are BAD babysitters.  Students should be professional students and stay on task at school.  If they want to “play,” they can do it at home. 

We are not babysitters, we are professionals.

I have a friend who is in a computer lab where the teachers bring their kids to “play” on the Internet for 30 minutes when they have a good week — no guided practice, no purpose – just play.

My friend is about to quit over it.

I would.

Computers make bad babysitters and a teacher who is responsible and has to try to monitor this is in for a cardiac arrest. 

Purpose and Planning

Purpose and planning should be in place when the computer or any technology is used in the classroom.

So should responsibility and accountability.  Teachers should monitor what kids do vigiliantly, deal with issues immediately.

Last week we had a student with a very innappropriate profile photo on Flat Classroom.  We banned the student immediately and left a message for her that once her profile photo was fixed, she could be restored.

She sent me  a message today asking why I banned her last week with no warning.  ONE WEEK LATER.

There is no warning in this world of electronics.  One strike, I take a screenshot and delete the offense.  I'm not leaving it up for anyone to see nor complain about. 

The student can fix it and move forward, but only after I have definite contact with them. Of course I'll let her back on, after she fixes the profile photo.  There are people from many cultures on there and this photo will offend at least half of the others.  She didn't like it, but her rights to express herself stopped when she became offensive.  You don't have the right to offend people flagrantly on this sort of project.

There is NO other way to run a project.  Say what you mean and mean what you say and if you're a teacher who can't control his/her classroom, you have no business getting students on the Internet.

So, what do you think about the “what if's?”

And I have a what if for you —

What if we treated online spaces just like the physical spaces of the school property would things be different?

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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