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Just some thoughts....

The Internet is an amazing place, full of never-ending resources and information. We can network with anyone online from home, the school, the library, or a cafe. Teachers and teacher educators utilize the Internet to 1) communicate with students and colleagues, 2) access rich educational and cultural resources, 3) obtain up-to-the-minute information and research, 4) improve their ability to understand and evaluate crucial information, and 5) teach classes. College faculty members are growing more comfortable and confident with technology. Teacher educators utilize it to enhance instruction and provide online learning experiences for teacher candidates so that the teacher candidates will feel comfortable using it as a student and venture into using it as a teacher. How well, however, are we preparing them to use the Internet safely, ethically, and humanely? Do we model and use the core rules of netiquette ourselves? (See www.albion.com/netiquette/corerules.html.)

The Internet allows users anywhere to post any information, including materials that are inaccurate, deceptive, and unsuitable for some audiences. The Story of Zach (http://nomvemberlearning.com/default.aspx?tabid=159&type =art&site+19&parentid=18) is one that is often used to show teachers just how inaccurate information can be. Pop-ups offer us free meals and free trips, much like the trash snail mail we receive. Unsuitable materials are available with just a change in an extension (whitehouse.gov, whitehouse.com, whitehouse.org, and maybe whitehouse.edu). We know the dangers of the media and now the Internet for children. The amount of material to which we do not want our school-age children to be exposed to is growing on both types of media. Because we cannot avoid using the Internet with the children in our charge, measures are being taken to shield children. In addition to providing "blocking and filtering software," schools are addressing proper Internet use and safety. Some schools reinforce the safety message with specific special assemblies and safe technology instruction. Classroom teachers and technology staff members continue to provide children and youth with basic safety tips for online interactions, whether E-mail, instant messaging, chat rooms, blogs, wikis, or such social networking sites as MySpace, Facebook, LiveJournal, etc.

The good news is that many classroom teachers are working to promote a safe online world for children. For the most part, the technology experiences are educational and rewarding. Yet we know there are times that children will access the Internet while alone. We can only hope our strategies will guide children to make good decisions. In much the same way that we trained them about stranger danger in the real world, they need to be aware of stranger danger on the Internet as well. Reporting is critical. Knowing how to report is even more critical.

The bad news is that it appears a growing number of teacher candidates are unknowingly posting photos and information that is inappropriate for mass consumption. They forget how public this communication is and that it might damage their future education jobs or reputations. Employers, parents, and even middle school children have been known to Google teachers, exposing some unflattering sites.

Since a young age, our preservice teachers appear to have had a "rattle" in one hand and a "mouse" in the other! They have grown up with technology, and we often marvel at their mastery. They have used technology from a very impressionable age and have no fear of its use. Has there been a tendency to overlook the college preservice teacher because we assume that mastery means wisdom?

As we log on to another school year, I hope to address some of these issues with my teacher candidates and colleagues. Do we communicate with our preservice teachers about how they should represent themselves online, much the same way we suggested in the "old" days that their phone answering machines have appropriate messages on them for potential employers or parents? Do we teach our preservice teachers about unauthorized use of school computers, much the same way we did about unauthorized use of the copy machine? Do we caution our preservice teachers to use E-mail systems and online communications with the same safety and ethical issues?

An examination of the position papers and articles written by the nation's largest teachers unions allows us to see how they are addressing the legal and cyberspace communications issues with their young teachers.

There are three guidelines we can provide to our preservice teachers: 1) they are held to high standards for ethical and appropriate behavior in public and the public sphere now includes the Internet. past and present: 2/the same safety issues that apply to children need be applied to adults; and 3) remember the old quote, "Never put in writing what you can say and never say anything you can think."

Perhaps you have thoughts to share?

Sources:

American Federation of Teachers. (2006). Net neutrality matters to higher education. Retrieved July 1, 2007, from www.aft.org/pubs-reports/on campus/oct06/technology.htm

Barrett, L. (2007). Not just your space. MTA Today. Publication of Massachusetts Teachers Association. Boston, MA

Collier, A., & Magid, L. (2007). MySpace unraveled: What it is to use it safely. [Excerpt available online: www.nea.org/neatoday/0704/myspaceintro.html]

Simpson, M. D. (2007, April). Savaged in cyberspace. NEA Today. Retrieved July 1, 2007, from www.nea.org/neatoday/0704/rightswatch.html

--Ron Colbert, Vice President Representing Intermediate/Middle Childhood
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Title Annotation:Vice President's Vista
Author:Colbert, Ron
Publication:Childhood Education
Date:Sep 22, 2007
Words:898
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