Posted by: schooleducator | March 27, 2010

Destiny’s Child and Digital Learning

My 4th grade son came home from school the other day excited about a new web-based application his school introduced.  The program, Destiny Quest, enables students to write, share, and review books for their grade level.  He pulled up the screen and proudly showed me his list of friends and a review that he had written.  I asked my wife, who teaches first grade at the school, if the school had discussed use agreements with the kids and if someone was responsible for overseeing the kids’ postings.  She was not sure the school had done that. I had a feeling that things might get sticky, since the school had not established agreements with the students, and also that the school had not informed parents of the new tool.

Sure enough, the next day my son returned from school to report that two students had written inappropriate reviews.  He genuinely could not believe that some of his classmates would do that.  The school would now read all of the postings and carefully monitor student activity.  Where the day before, he was brimming with enthusiasm about the possibilities of the new application, he now was confused and uncertain about the participatory culture the school was trying to create for students.

This is the perfect learning moment for the school and the community.  The possibility for collaboration, through peer to peer sharing of books, and the chance for students to get their feet wet with social networking, needed to be matched with communication and education for parents so that the home environment could support the school setting to accomplish the same learning goals for kids. School no longer ends at 3:30 and in the words of one school administrator, “there is no longer such a thing as a day school.”  Parents and schools need to partner to ensure meaningful learning with technology and foster a seamless transition from the end of the school day to the home.

My son’s school is now back on their heels, reacting to student transgressions, instead of positively guiding students and parents through how to leverage the power of a web-based application to build community.

What could the school have done differently?

First, review appropriate use agreements with the students, anticipate potential problems that might arise, and arm the students with strategies to overcome potential obstacles or concerns. Have students create the norms for use and develop consequences if there is a violation of the norms.

Second, communicate the goals of using the new tool to parents.  Hold a parent meeting to introduce the application.  Have students and parents come together to use the application together, with students showing parents how to use the application.

Third, provide ongoing communication and support for students and families.

These three simple steps would go a long way toward helping students and parents maintain a positive outlook toward technology in schools.  Parents and schools need to work together to help students stand in possibility with technology.

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