As an ed tech coach, I am often asked questions about limiting internet access to students. “Can we block youtube?” “Can we block this game site?” “We need to block facebook.” My district has a progressive view on site availability: we recognize that there can be excellent academic and relationship building reasons to leave social media sites accessible by all and we also know that shutting off one game site just means another game site is discovered the next week.
BUT...I can empathize with the questions. It's understandable that teachers and principals might want limits on availability. Students finding ways to spend their entire class time on youtube searching for music videos instead of researching the Civil War is frustrating - and the least scary thing about open access. Cyber-bullying, violent or sexually graphic images and videos, and child predators on internet sites aimed at children are infinitely more concerning.
In our district, we do a decent job in blocking websites that are inappropriate for children, but what can we do about sites like youtube - which can have both excellent resources for students and teachers AND truly objectionable material?
Some teachers have a hard and fast rule regarding where students go on the internet. It’s some variation of, “If you are anywhere other than ___, I’m taking up your chromebook.” I totally get this stance. Teachers have a lot going on during class and with a rule like this, teachers that move around the room interacting with students can keep their students on the desired site effectively.
1. Is this just compliance? Are students engaged in the work or are they simply staring at the screen, doing no deep thinking? I would argue that with this management policy, students may only be engaged behaviorally, leaving behind affective and cognitive engagement - and thus, leaving behind rigor and relevance.
2. We don’t pick up the notebooks and pens from students when they aren’t doing their assigned work. We don’t take away their textbook. What message are we sending if we take away their chromebook/ipad/laptop/phone?
Sometimes, building compliance skills in our children is crucial. Physical safety comes to mind. You teach a two year old to not touch the stove, to not handle knives, to not go out in the street. You don’t spend a lot of time trying to explain why; the typical two year old isn’t capable of reason and their life safety depends on compliance.
Compliance in the classroom is more nuanced. We still need students to follow rules, but we also want student buy-in. Buy-in v. compliance in a 3rd grade classroom may look different when compared to the same in a 9th grade classroom, but it’s a crucial piece in the culture of every classroom.
How might we scaffold self-management skills for our students?
I’ve been struggling with this idea for a while now. I’m a neophyte twitter user and I tweeted out a variation or two on the subject but got no replies. Wholly aware that I’m a twitter noob, I thought the reason my questions didn’t generate any interest is because either a) no one else has the question b) the answer is so obvious that no one wants to get into a discussion about it or c) something is wrong with my twitter account or the way I tweet. Maybe I have some issues with insecurity. :)
Then I saw a tweet from Richard Wells @EduWells - “How do we scaffold self-management?” I followed that discussion, and there were some great thoughts - break it into small chunks and help students identify behaviors from Jacque Allen @jacquea, set mini goals within the student’s zone of proximal development from Barend Blom @blominator.
As a concrete thinker, I immediately jumped to what these ideas would look like in a classroom. I broached the subject with Kevin Reibau @kmriebau, and he told me about StackUp @StackupLearning . A colleague of ours, Noah Geisel @SenorG, took a few minutes the other day to show me some of the cool stuff this Chrome extension can do. I think it can be a part of the scaffolding of self-management for students - not as a replacement for relationship building, setting goals and reflecting on progress with students but as a non-invasive digital way of producing data for students so they know exactly how much time they spent on instagram instead of on the History Channel.
At the very least, it lets me know just how far I fell into the seemingly never-ending time suck of facebook or Inside Texas - my Longhorn Football fix.
Anyone else using a tool like StackUp with students? Have other ideas about helping students make good choices when it comes to class time activities?