Openness and Sharing – Fair but Unfair

Smartphone, Face, Woman, Old, Baby
Used with permission from Pixabay

Tonight’s discussion debated on two different aspects of openness and sharing in school being unfair to our kids. Sherrie and Dean argued the benefits of openness and sharing with regards to learning and connecting with others across the world in a meaningful, purposeful way. Melinda and Altan argued the concerns of openness and sharing with regards to privacy, consent, and accessibility. Both arguments had me agreeing with both sides because they were looking at this debate topic from differently interpreted angles. I respect each angle as I feel they both need to be discussed to bring awareness so that education on these concepts is “open and shared” (see how I did that, kinda punny!)

As I tend to have done in my last few posts, I am going to share my takeaways from this discussion. First off, I’ll start with Sherrie and Dean’s perspective on the topic.

Adapted and expanded on from source

As mentioned by the presenters, openness and sharing allows for the 4, now 5, C’s of the 21st century education. Don’t get me wrong, all of these are important in education regardless of the platform, but by using the online format, it opens up the possibility for more of each area. Communicating with others in your school division, province, country, or across the world, opens up the potential for diverse collaboration, exposure to differing perspectives to develop and apply the art of critical thinking, generating creativity for sharing, and connecting in a global stage to take education and our future leaders to the next level.

More often than not, we are the authority on what students learn and how but that has to change. We need to empower students by allowing them choice and freedom in their learning and this can be done through openness and sharing, or OEPs (Open Educational Practices) and OERs (Open Educational Resources). OEPs are a set of activities and support around the creation, use, and repurposing of OERs (Conole, 2010). OERs are freely accessible, openly licensed text, media, and other digital assets that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes (Wikipedia, accessed on June 9th, 2020). Although OEPs and OERs are used more with high school and post-secondary institutions, there are some that address elementary outcomes such as ck12.org.

Media, Social Media, Apps, Social Network, Facebook
Used with permission from Pixabay

Lastly, students need to be in charge of their digital footprint. Let’s not be ignorant to the fact that they will all have one, if not already, much like we all do in some capacity. However, we need to make them aware of how their actions shape their online identity, which is something most employers are accessing to make hiring decisions. Students are going to inevitably venture into the online world and we as teachers have a part in educating them on how to positively reflect who they are by what they are sharing online. The difficult part is that many adults have difficulties with this concept. If we follow Ribble’s Step Approach, this will help us think critically when posting.

In addition, ISTE has created five questions that adults can use to kick-start meaningful conversations with kids about online behavior and identity:

  1. What information am I sharing?
  2. How secure is it?
  3. Whom am I sharing it with?
  4. What am I leaving behind?
  5. What are my rights?

When we lead by example and are transparent (or translucent) with our own online activities, we can guide, influence, and inspire our youth to responsibly benefit from openness and sharing.

Now on the other hand, Melinda and Altan brought up some valid points with regards to openness and sharing in a personal context. We have to be knowledgeable about our division’s privacy policies with regard to sharing student information, especially pictures. As they pointed out, our EAL population has a difficult time understanding documents, such as the media release forms, and I assume there are other families that do as well. How can we make these documents more clear and understandable by most?

The digital divide is a concern brought up in many of our debates, and for good reason. Because of it, many in our population aren’t exposed to the benefits of openness and sharing. Since a lot of things are online now, such as applying for jobs, registering for activities, etc, those without access aren’t getting the same opportunities.

As Alec mentioned, it isn’t fair to keep the concept of openness and sharing from our youth. We need to provide them with tools and knowledge to positively participate in openness and sharing within our digital world. We also need to provide access for those who don’t have it so that they are exposed to more opportunities. Although openness and sharing can be done offline, with guidance, it can be transferred to online spaces appropriately. We can’t lose sight that open learning and sharing start with consent and choice and be aware of the positive and negative consequences of what we are posting or accessing online. It is important to share learning, and not necessarily opinions as this may lead to scrutiny of your teaching motives and agenda.

Openness and sharing in schools can be fair to our kids if addressed with care and concern and if used with an appropriate purpose to help instill the “5” C’s of 21st century education.

4 thoughts on “Openness and Sharing – Fair but Unfair

  1. I agree with your thoughts Daina. I know many people who “facebook creep” or Google search job applicants or other new people that come into a situation. This highlights that it is very important to know what is posted about you online and to know that it can be seen by anyone at anytime. Which is why it is necessary for youth to have a say in establishing their digital footprint. A lot of good reminders in your post that the adults play a vital role to be purposeful in what they post about youth and the responsibility adults have to inform youth of responsible use.

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  2. Daina, the way you captured the perspectives both sides took and how all points are beneficial to consider in our classrooms, personal lives and down the road with positions of added responsibilities (if people so choose to go down that path). I think this is what struck me the most about this debate, and your reflection on it. Once again, it’s not about who was right or wrong, but rather incredibly sound evidence and reason why we need to consider both sides! The best decisions are the ones made with all the information one can see, but it’s also imperative we enhance our personal perspective with unique points of view which I felt shined last night with the EAL component and Sherrie’s role as an administrator. Add in the many potentials that sharing can bring into our classrooms (leaning into experts, learning through community, collaborating) and perhaps it’s not about the ban, it’s about the plan! I thought you nailed the position about the benefit of diverse voices in your response, but also saw it in this comment “Communicating with others in your school division, province, country, or across the world, opens up the potential for diverse collaboration, exposure to differing perspectives to develop and apply the art of critical thinking, generating creativity for sharing, and connecting in a global stage to take education and our future leaders to the next level”. I thought that this could not only be about content, assessment or assignment design, but also how to handle the ever changing landscape that is happening in 21st Century learning and the potential plans and documentation that would help all navigate the terrain from an office perspective.

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  3. I really liked the 5 questions you provided to start a conversation. I think so many of us miss this step. Also I agree that Melinda and Altan brought up some really good points about our EAL families and some of the struggles they have in the school setting. I think this is something that really hit home with me and it is something I hope I can look into at our school since we have a high EAL population.

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  4. Hi Daina,

    Thank you for the great read! I really like the Ribble’s STEP approach you shared about thinking critically about what we post online. I could not agree more as adults we need to be the role models for our students and children for how to go about posting online. As students’ digital footprint is starting at a younger age we need to help them to be aware of what they choose to post online about themselves as this will follow them well into the future. I like the way you presented the arguments for both sides of this debate topic so clearly and concisely.

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