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Life’s Lessons from a 10-Year-Old

It was a moment of shame. I felt like a terrible mother, as I peered up to see my 4th grade daughter on stage performing violin at the evening concert for all of the school and parent community with a huge hole in the knee of her pants! How did I miss that as we hurried around the house getting ready and shoving dinner down our throats on the way out the door to the concert?

The more I thought about it, the embarrassment dissipated and pride enveloped me. Instead of feeling embarrassed that other parents were judging me for allowing her to wear clothing with holes or getting mad that I just bought those pants and she had already ruined them, I felt grateful. I was grateful that she was playing so hard and taking risks that made her pants rip. I was proud that she had enough self-confidence to not worry what others thought about her and wear them to the concert.

    • And then I of course related it back to an educational lens and specifically, kids’ digital footprints. Oftentimes I see in schools that they don’t want kids to get ‘messy.’ Sites are blocked and students are never given a chance to ‘tear their pants’ or make a mistake online. When I was a technology integration specialist in elementary school and held parent education events, I would always tell them that I was secretly pleased when students made a poor choice, or as I called it, a FLOPPORTUNITY, because it was a learning opportunity with low stakes and lots of support from me,  the teacher, the school and the parents. Make that same mistake in middle or high school, and stakes are much higher!

Research shows that when kids have less rules on the playground, they are more responsible and learn how to self-assess risks better. So how and where are we providing places for our students to self-assess and think critically in digital spaces? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. In lower elementary, start a class social media account. In your morning meetings, check your Twitter feed. Assign one child to be the tweeter each day. It’s shared writing for modern-day use!
  2. Get kids on blogs (k-12!) and give them an authentic audience. Use a hashtag like #comments4kids to get real comments on your students’ work! Or find another class elsewhere in the world through Skype in the Classroom or Google’s Connected Classroom to be blogging buddies and give each other feedback.
  3. Participate in the Global Read Aloud and have students present their thinking in shared digital spaces.
  4. Analyze fake websites like Dog Island or the Northwest Pacific Tree Octopus with students. How do they know it’s fake? How might they use CARP to evaluate online sources and help them develop media literacy?
  5. Learn through play! Strengthen students’ digital citizenship skills through Google’s new Be Internet Awesome digital citizenship game, Interland. There’s also a slew of games from CommonSense Media:  Digital Passport (elementary), Digital Compass (middle school) and Digital Bytes (high school).

What can parents do at home to encourage their kids to grow through digital risk-taking but in safe spaces?

  1. Keep conversation flowing frequently and consistently! Ask your child what kinds of things they are searching and finding on the Internet. Ask them to share what their friends do when they come across something inappropriate online.
  2. Develop and sign a media contract together. You can customize your own at CommonSense Media. Just remember parents should follow the same no-devices-at-the-dinner-table rules too!
  3. Keep devices out of the bedroom and in higher-traffic areas. Use a file folder stand in a common area as a charging/docking station for everyone’s devices at night.
  4. If your child is under 13, create an email account together for your child. As the parent, retain the password and advise your child that you have it. Let your child use email to send birthday thank you cards or stay in touch with relatives and family friends.
  5. Allow your kids extra screen time by playing Google’s new Be Internet Awesome digital citizenship game, Interland. There’s also a slew of digital citizenship-strengthening games from CommonSense Media:  Digital Passport (elementary), Digital Compass (middle school) and Digital Bytes (high school).

Real learning is messy. Time to tear those pants.

Emily Roth is an Eduro Learning consultant. This post part of a special series of blogs written by Eduro Learning consultants. 

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