Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Is google docs more dangerous than recess? #edchat #edtech

So my school is experimenting with Google Apps for education for our 3rd-5th graders. We have to disable gmail, of course. But we can access docs, sites, and calendars. Google Talk was disabled since chatting is considered a bad thing in our district. Why? Well, it's a bullying blindspot, for starters. It could open students up to talking with people off campus (oh, the horror). And really, it's just plain distracting to good-old-fashioned research and writing.

Good-old-fashioned somethingorother? Oh boy was I having a paradigm problem!

We showed students how to share their documents so that they could keep research notes collaboratively and it too them all of 5 minutes to discover something we didn't know about!

Psssst! Can you keep a secret?

Well, it turns out that Google has implemented chatting in their docs programs! I'm not talking about their "dicussion" tool! I'm talking about their "up pops a window and you're chatting real time" tool!

*sound of stuff hitting the fan*

My colleague's first question was, "can we disable this?" A quick google search revealed that, no, we cannot disable it. I next turned to the #EdChat and #EdTech PLN's on Twitter to see if someone had some suggestions to help us contain this hull breech. And there I got some very good feedback:

Learn from it!

Sure, chats can be distracting. But so are kids wandering around the classroom being off-task. Do you let them keep doing it? Do you micromanage them?

Sure, chats could potentially open things up to people outside our district. But the way Google Apps is configured, kids can't communicate with people out of our domain.

And sure, chats open up a bullying blindspot. But let's be honest about this one: the playground is a far more dangerous bullying blindspot! At least online, the kids have a chance to snap a screenshot and send it to a teacher! The stuff on the playground is completely undocumentable except as hearsay.

So the shorter version of this already too long moral tale: use it as a learning experience. Talk with the kids about how to manage chats and chat requests; or how to manage their sharing altogether! Let the kids become digital citizens! They have to be given room to exercise their own judgement and responsibility if they are going to be safe online.

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