Read on for this week's update:
Last week we spent some quality time exploring the cyber world. In a nutshell, we discussed:
Monday: The awesome power of words, both in spoken and through typed text, and how extremely, extremely difficult it is to express things very effectively through typed characters on a screen. We also discussed challenges that arise through easy misunderstandings, and abuse, including cyber bullying, and other kinds of harassment that is becoming so common these days.
Tuesday: Privacy (there is absolutely none) and staying safe online (not so easy for curious adolescents when they are given free reign on their gadgets). We looked at how incredibly easy it is to lie or snoop (I wish I could take a picture for you all of the faces of the children as we discussed this) in the cyber world, and how difficult it is to know who is who online. We also discussed the common things young teens do online that gets them in trouble (pictures of themselves doing stupid things, using abusive language online as they "comment" on postings, using abusive language when texting, posting pictures of their friends doing dumb things without their permission, making "friends" with people they have never met in person, etc).
Wednesday: Plagiarism, the general rules around it in the school setting, how easy it is to do, how challenging it is for schools to deal with, and what happens these days to students who are caught doing it.
Thursday: A beginning discussion about the "digital footprint" that we are all amassing as we explore online and post things with our names on it ("checking in" at restaurants, shirtless "selfies" standing in front of a mirror with an iPhone in our hand, for instance). We discussed how companies are following our interests and trying to shape the things we see on the screen to sell us things, and we also discussed how colleges (and employers) very likely Google the names of potential applicants these days to see what their online presence says about them. I also gave the students two possible scenarios to work through and discuss with their groups about how they might navigate through them.
Friday: Manners and gadgets. We discussed the many social difficulties that arise with people and their gadgets (technology on play dates, friend, parent constantly on phone, etc). We began making a list of "Reminders" about how to avoid being cyber rude or inappropriate. We will continue this important, practical, discussion over the course of two more subject periods in the coming weeks.
As you can imagine, we could spend a month on all of this stuff. Lots and lots of questions arose and obviously we could not get to them all. I would definitely encourage you to discuss these issues with your children. Whether you realize it or not they actually know a whole lot about this stuff, and from their questions, group discussions, and looks on faces in class, they might need a little checking up on-- maybe even without them knowing you are doing it. Is your child going online without your oversight? Where? Do they have a texting app on their iPod or tablet? Who are they texting? When? Do they sleep with their gadget in their bed with them? How many accounts do they have online? Can they look through your personal files and email? Have you looked through theirs? I would like to encourage you all to think critically about what your family policies are regarding technology and the internet. Do you really know what your child is doing on their devices? Look closely because you might be surprised at what you find.
In case you are interested, here is a info sheet for parents from The CommonSenseMedia site, a place where I picked up some helpful ideas:
New Block This Week: Physical Science #2
We will begin a new block this week, Physical Science, which will pick up right where we left off with the last one, exploring heat energy. Next we will move into Magnetism. The last week of this three-week block, Michele will take over, and she will then carry the torch for the remainder of the school year while I go off into The West like Bilbo, Frodo and the elves.
Habits and Skills
Thank you for sitting down with your children and discussing with them their progress with the "Habits and Skills" that we have also been discussing in class. I realize that this kind of thing is not so easy to talk through. Perhaps the way I have outlined it all is not so clear. The students are really so young too, and only just beginning to comprehend their own role in the development of these habits and skills. However, even if you were unclear about a category as it was defined, simply having the conversation with your child about these kinds of things is so, so helpful. I encourage you to consider sharing with them your own struggles and successes with challenging "habits and skills" like the ones we are working on. Personal stories really resonate deeply with children of this age.
Weill Hall Dress
I have been asked my Michele to remind everyone that Weill Concert dress for the performance this week is the same as our usual concert attire: white shirts/blouses, black pants/skirts (pure black and neat jeans are acceptable), girls may wear white dresses with black design/trim. Shirts need to be tucked in.
Okay, I think that is it. Have a nice week. And enjoy the wonderful rain!