Cross Post: Who is doing the learning? @coetail #coetail


Every few weeks a message likes the one below pops up in social media feed asking me to share, retweet or like a photo in order to ‘teach’ a class a lesson about the reach of social media. Often the messages are quite benign simply asking for a share.

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A similar message below received a lot of positive attention from news media around the world. As the shares came through, I wondered if publicly ‘outing’ students for bad online behaviour is ethical teaching. The act may have temporally scared children into deleting photos and accounts online, but  the experience wouldn’t have left the children with an enduring understanding of responsible and ethical use of social media.

Teachers are right to be nervous.

The internet is littered with cautionary tales of people posting silly things online then getting fired or losing important opportunities.

These sort of lessons might scare the students in the short term but eventually the kids start posting stuff online harmless photos of their cats or selfies and a simple request of a like for a like just like the teacher modeled. When the kids don’t get desired reaction of attention from peers, they start to resort to more desperate attempts to get desired interaction which is what drives a lot of negative content online.

Children are no different from adults in the need for connection both in the real world and on social media. The problem is that they haven’t taught about how to navigate networks online effectively.

We need to being a little bit every day rather than a once off shock and awe and go back to business as usual.

For every risk assessment there also needs to be analysis of benefits.

When we look at some of the biggest names in media, many of them got their breaks through social media. No one can run for public office these days without a digital presence and many people, including myself, are finding their jobs these days through connections made online.

In my own family my brother’s girlfriend runs a business selling vintage clothing through Facebook.

Yes Facebook.

Educators can no longer assume an one off ‘lesson’ that scares kids into compliance is actually doing these kids a service.

In fact it may be doing them in a disservice because they don’t know what positive online interaction looks like.

A few weeks later the photo above surfaced on twitter as part of safer internet day. This image is powerful because

  • The students are posing a question rather than a teacher.
  • It’s a message of possibility of new technology for learning rather than fear and shaming one.
  • There are chances for interaction with the users of this through hashtags as I am doing now with this blog post
  • The students will no doubt discuss the implications of the reach of the photo which will enable them to construct their own understanding.

As I pondered the three examples of demonstrating the power of global connections I kept coming back to the model of the gradual release of responsibility.

I kept wondering.

Who is doing the creating?

Who is doing the sharing?

Because the answers to those questions is also the answer to the most important question of all.

Who is doing the learning?


When we look at a lot of popular forms of global collaboration; mystery skypes, travelling toys it is often the teacher doing the leg work that Kim Cofino outlines in her guide to global collaboration it is the teacher doing a lot of the work. At the basic level of online sharing most classroom blogs – including my own – don’t really get much past shared stage.

Providing rich opportunities for collaboration is important.

But just as important is teachers learning to step back.

Last week I watched over a book club during literacy hour.

Organically they’ve migrated from pencil and paper over to google drive and are even using the class set of  iPads to take pictures of paper to share more effectively with the group. Each person can see the paper on the screen rather than straining to see one piece of paper.

One of the kids set up a shared folder and instructs her peers to put their files in the folder to automatically share with the group.

“We will be able to find things more easily,” she exclaims.

The best bit?

I hadn’t told this groups of Year 4s to do any of this. In fact I had to ask the kids to share me their folders.

How often do teachers challenge our students to look outside our own online expertise?

To create and share their own content?

To develop their own connections to help with their learning?

from Teaching the Teacher

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