After Alec joined us during class last week, I have had a lot to think about. For as long as I can remember, I have had some presence on the Internet. I remember beginning to play online games as young as 6, and I played them for most of my life after that until recently. I often say I grew up on the Internet, which is without a doubt true.
One of the things that really stood out to me during Alec’s presentation is the fact that such a high percentage of people that aren’t even born yet already have a digital footprint. They are basically inheriting an online presence before they are even breathing fresh air in this world. This to me is a little scary, as even as a kid, I always felt like I had a choice as to whether or not I was on the Internet. Now, this has taken a massive turn, and I can expect every single one of my students to have an online presence in some way, no matter what grade I end up teaching.
What this really means is that the Internet is here to stay. As Alec stated, there is really no more separating your online self, and your offline self. No matter what you are doing some version of you is always online, whether it be in the form of the pictures you, or someone else, shared on Facebook, or a comment you left on a post. You are always present online. For classrooms, this is a really important topic to cover. Our students need to be given proper tools to navigate the web, and to make informed decisions on how they want to be online. This means that a portion of teaching needs to revolve around digital citizenship: is it okay to post this? What repercussions will this have on me? These are two really important questions that students will need to think about before posting, and as educators, we will have to do our best to make students aware of them.
Additionally, it is of utmost importance for us to stress the permanence of everything that ends up on the Internet. If it gets uploaded, it will be on there for life. In today’s culture, this could mean that something that got posted ten years ago could cost you your job today. One of the questions I often ask myself is “What would my grandma say?” (or more recently “What would the parents of my students say?”). These are especially important, because as I have found, people tend to want to post about everything they do in life in order to receive the instant gratification that social media can offer.
However, the Internet is not all bad. As both Alec, and Wesch pointed out, there is a lot of good that comes with the Internet. It has created this culture in which people want to participate. They will imitate anything. Wesch covered a lot of the big memes that went around as I was growing up. The Numa Numa guy for example, was huge. And I remember that everyone around me was dancing to it when it first came out. The same went for Soulja Boy. Every day, a few students in my class would practice the dance moves in the front entrance of the school. People see something they like on the Internet, and they want to replicate it, and sometimes repost it. Once again, this can be a good thing, but it can also mean things take a darker turn. Students in today’s classrooms need to know how to distinguish a good meme, and a potentially dangerous one. For example, the recent Tide pod challenge. This challenge, which seems to have been started as a joke, became a trend in which many people ended up sick due to curiosity, but also wanting to participate in the latest craze. This can be problematic for all schools when a challenge such as this arises, and I believe the most effective approach is to talk about it. Blatantly tell students how dangerous it really is, and not to fall for it. Make sure students have the information available to them to make informed decisions about what they see and what they do on the Internet.