Monday, March 23, 2009

The DL DeLemma

In February Ken Allen wrote a great post, Champion Elearning Myths, that's been rattling around in my brain for the past month.  He raised a number of points that are relevant to me as I teach at a distributed learning (DL) school in British Columbia (in other jurisdictions it is often referred to as distance learning). 

Student - Studying by m00by CC attribution, no derivative works.

There have been a lot of changes to distributed learning in the past 5 years which have resulted in more students, especially in grades 10 and up, enrolling in DL schools.  There are a myriad of reasons that students have for choosing a DL school.  Lately at my school we are seeing more and more students enrolling who have learning challenges and/or do not have the organizational skills to successfully work through the courses we offer.  With many of these students they have agreed to come in and work at the school for 2 or more days of the week to receive support from their teachers and certified educational assistant (teachers assistant).  This is helping the students to be more successful, but I don't think it is enough; they still need more support. 

This leads me to wonder, when does a DL school stop being a DL school?  I mean, if we really want these kids to be successful, maybe we should say that they need to come into the school 4 days a week?  It seems that the system needs another option.  The students that I am concerned about are not being successful at the regular schools, but they also don't 'fit' at the alternative programs.  They are in between and so are choosing the DL option.  The problem is that most successful DL students need to be organized, motivated, and have strong support at home.  That is not the case for most of these kids.  Heck, a DL program is challenging for the 'ideal' student. 

I guess I need to step back and ask, are these kids being more successful with us than they were in their regular school?  If so, is that enough?  I don't know; I still think they deserve more. 

What do you think?  How can we help these kids who fall through the cracks? 
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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Attack of the Body Snatchers

This week at my friend's school: a girl Googles her friend's name and finds a blog, apparently written by the friend, which discusses all sorts of personal issues that really ought not to be on-line for all to read.  When the friend is shown the site by the principal she claims that she is not the author; that someone created the blog and is impersonating her.  After a request from the school the site content is quickly removed by the blog host.

I see two scenarios here, both disturbing.

A)  Someone is impersonating the girl.  This would be very easy to do, though a bit time consuming.  What if someone was impersonating you by creating 'your' blog?  What damaging content could they post?  How could you prove that you were not the author of the blog?  Would it even be possible to determine who was the real author?  All I can say is I'm going to keep that Google Alert for my name; though I should figure out how to filter it so that I don't keep getting hits for Claire Thompson the S and M novelist.

B)  No one is impersonating the girl.  She just showed a real lack of knowledge thinking that she could treat her blog, with her name on it, like a personal diary; full of intimate details that only she could read.  This is a dangerous lack of knowledge.  We have to do a better job of educating our kids about the internet.  In my day teens could make mistakes, sometimes pretty big ones, but they didn't do it on-line, for the whole world to see, forever...    

Each day more and more kids have easy unfettered access to the internet via cell phones, the iPod touch, and whatever those new gameboy thingy's are called.  No longer can we rely on just keeping the family computer in the kitchen (though that's still a good idea) or on having programs like Net Nanny or Agent Bob (a program my husband developed) on the aforementioned family computer. We've got to give the kids the skills to make good decisions on-line.

Vendo iPod touch 16 GB by juanpol

Are you aware of these sorts of issues occuring with your students?  Does your school address digital citizenship/literacy in an adequate way or is it just a piecemeal process?
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