Me: “You studied this in your computer class, right?”
Student: “Umm, what computer class?”
It has been my assumption for a while that most of my students either have taken, are in the process of taking or will be taking a computer literacy course. My assumption is, unfortunately, incorrect. Most of my students, actually, have never taken a course dedicated solely to computer literacy. The course is usually offered in some variation as an elective class and unless a student expresses a keen desire to learn “Gaming 101”, chances are they haven’t taken the course. They, like many of the adults in their lives, assume that “simply because they were born in an age when these technologies were pervasive,” they are somehow savvy to all of the vast and subtle rules of the digital highway.
This has left me in a conundrum. I’m trying to integrate technology into my English classes, but find that with all of the other requirements of the course, namely the English 10 Common Core Standards, I’m struggling to fit everything in.
What’s an English Lit teacher to do? I want my students to use technology as a means to furthering their interaction with literature, but I feel like I need to add a few weeks to the school year in order to teach them the skills of digital citizenship. In her book, It’s Complicated: the Social Lives of Networked Teens, Danah Boyd draws emphasis to this very point:
Teens will not become critical contributors to this [Internet] ecosystem simply because they were born in an age when these technologies were pervasive. Whether in school or in informal settings, youth need opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge to engage with temporary technology effectively and meaningfully. Becoming literate in a networked age requires hard work, regardless of age.”
So, whose job is it to teach our students how to be positive, contributing and critical citizens of the internet? Partly mine and partly that of the rest of the adults in their lives: parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, counselors. But are they getting this digital citizenship training in any other classes or areas of their lives? Honestly, I don’t think so.
I must confess – as the weeks of our blogging unit progress, I do feel a great weight on my shoulders that I think is disproportionate compared to teachers of other core subjects. I’m spending quite a bit of class time discussing various aspects of their online profiles, including videos about being careful about what they post online and those that encourage them to consider their legacy; engaging in lengthy Socratic Seminars on the merits of Snapchat vs. Instagram and the fact that Facebook is now considered by teens to be “dead to us”; and of course, the “Do’s & Don’ts” of blogging.
All of this to say that I, as an educator, am feeling slightly overwhelmed with the weight of teaching students to navigate this nebulous and still-new-to-me digital highway. For my part, I am starting to take this monolothic job very seriously and am thankful that my school has recently opened a new position for a high school technology integrator. Hopefully, next year all students will be required to take a course similar to the one Reuben Loewey has designed. Or even better, more teachers will begin to integrate aspects of digital citizenship into their own courses. And as scary as it sounds, just as we are all teachers of writing, I think we have all now become teachers of computer literacy.