September 26, 2007

We can't teach the new literacies soon enough

Tennis_stars_official Cross-posted at ConnectedLive.

This morning's news reports tell us enough is enough. If a pair of Britain's young sporting hopefuls can lose all their funding in one fell swoop after doing what millions of other kids do on a daily basis, then what are the consequences for our kids when they reach the world of 'professionalism' too?

Tennis_stars_bebo The story is this: two young tennis stars lose their funding after posting pictures and confessions on Bebo, the social networking site, that show them lauding a "lifestyle" (well, probably the odd weekend) of drink, partying and eating junk food. Welcome to the average world of the average UK teenager (although I'm sure plenty of readers of this blog may wish to disagree in relation to their own kids; you can, that's allowed, but I've taught enough to know that this story is far more frequently true than most adults care to believe).

Mind your language
Before you say it: it's not the fault of Bebo. Or Facebook. Or any of the other social neworks that our teenagers are using. It's the fault of... us. The whole village. A couple of things that these kids clearly did not know:

  • Public profile means public: searchable, findable, befriendable;
  • Google Cache = People Cache: if it was ever public, ever, then it stays public, forever in the Internet Archive. When you want to publish a picture from a drunken night out immediately compare it to the thing that means the most to you later in life. Would I want my kids to see me like this? When I'm a consultant doctor, politician, priest, building contractor going for a job, would I want the clients to see that?
  • Who's a Friend these days? It's hard to know, and how often do you update the status of Contacts, Friends, and Top 8s?
  • Your profession will start sooner than you think: these kids were 17 and 18, and have just lost everything they had. As the lotto slogan used to go, It Could Be You.

Social networks aren't bad, in the same way as a car isn't a bad thing. But if you don't know how to drive them then you're sure to have an accident one day, and you might well bring others down with you.

What's your Local Authority, Administration or school doing to prevent this happening next week to your students?

Comments

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Great example of how things go wrong. To answer your question we are trying to tackle the students and the parents see: http://edubuzz.org/blogs/headteachersletters/2007/09/26/internet-safety-training-for-parents-and-families/

This is exactly the kind of article my reading groups share, discuss and comment about in the classroom. Thanks for writing it so that I can keep exposing my students to real-life happenings that they can relate to.

Ewan
I see this story from another side.
I am in no way denying that most young adults will go out eat pizza and drink the odd beer / alchopop at the weekend. Most will take pics with their phones and show each other on Monday morning. Any parent not willing to admit to this is either in denial or needs to have their eyes open. I am lucky enough to have a very trusting relationship with my own kids but they are still at primary school so are still young enough (but probably not for long).

The story I see is of 2 young promising athletes who were not prepared to fully commit to the lifestyle needed to succeed at their chosen sport. Gone are the days when footballers stopped off for a pint on the way to a game and smoked at half time. To be a champion requires 100% commitment which this pair sadly didn’t give. Try reading In Search of Robert Millar or The Flying Scotsman: The Graeme Obree Story to get an insight of what they gave up and just how committed they were to winning, its no coincidence that Lance Armstrong’s second book was titled “Every Second Counts”
Removing all their funding may seem somewhat harsh but it sends out a clear warning to other hopefuls and shouldn’t the LTA use its funds wisely and invest in athletes who are recognise the opportunity they have been given?

If they hadn’t published on Bebo would the funders not have found out through another source anyway?

Maybe they would have, maybe they wouldn't. There are plenty of doped or drunk athletes to know that many slip through the net for better or for worse. Maybe it is just harder if you choose this type of 'professionalism' when you're 17 or younger, but I still think it doesn't stop us helping them to see both the significance of their actions and publishing it. Maybe the latter could help them think a bit more about the consequences of even doing the former.

Great points made.
We promote blogging and posting to our students in part because, we tell them, it gives them a global and permanent audience. When a student posts a comment to a teacher's prompt, it means that the entire class can read it, process it, and respond to it. But, we tell them, it also means that they can get their ideas out to thousands of people who might come across their ideas.That is power, we tell them. This they get, and this excites them about doing a lot of their journaling and reacting this way. It also makes them much more careful about what they will say when they do post. Our hope is that this will help them be much more careful about their social sites. Somehow, though, a lot of them seem to think that their social sites have some sort of magic power to keep parents, teachers, adults, future employers and perverts away from them. Are they serious? No, they are teenagers. Point of fact, I have had to tell professional staff to lose their MySpace sites because they were unprofessional. Most have, and they are wiser. One did not, and they are working somewhere else.

@Raymond. Just curious; are MySpace pages per se unprofessional? Or was it just your staff's particular pages that had unprofessional content?

Hmmm. Interesting point, Andrew. Having a discussion the other night made me realise that people still paint lots of social media with one big (and rather dirty brush). I'd be interested in the response, too.

Amen Ewan. I agree. We all need to engage in this conversation, it's not the fault of the social networking sites. These are choices people are making. Unfortunately there seems to be less latitude for mistakes when something is published on the global stage.

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

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