Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Blurring of the lines between Public and Private

Mia Freedman's column in the Sunday Life (May 22, 2011) magazine really resonated with me. This week I was talking to a colleague about my role in the library and where I see it heading. I feel really strongly that students need to be equipped to handled the modern world is at times can be frighteningly complex and uncertain. That so much of what should be private is no longer that.She made that excellent point which got me thinking. That one of the aspects of modern life that students are struggling with is the blurring of the private and public worlds. The mistakes that past generations made as teenagers weren't captured on iphones, social networking cites and the like. Facebook is often derided by those in the teaching profession and police force due to the amount of pain and suffering it inflicts on others - and that teachers and police officers are forced to deal with - due to it large part it plays in capturing and repeating often thoughtless words and actions. A hurtful comment in the past, was said, perhaps repeated as hearsay but eventually its currency and agency faded. This is unfortunately not the case for the modern teenager trying to navigate the murky and turbulent waters of growing up. Cyber-bullying is only a recent phenomenon. I know that I am forever grateful that my mistakes and actions that I would be less than proud of- then or now - has not been cached on my computer server for posterity!

As Freedman points out "This isn't new, this desire to share. We're just documenting our lives in different ways. Instead of diaries, scrapbooks or photo albums, we post pictures, blog and tweet. Social media is the modern version of cave paintings. The key difference is scalability. Unlike the physical and geographic limitations of scrapbooks and caves, anyone anywhere can hop online. In fact, that's the point. The more friends, followers, readers, the better. That's how social media works.
The town square never shuts down in 2011. People are broadcasting details of their lives constantly. Even if you're not a broadcaster, at every point in the day where your life intersects with another person who has an Internet connection, your privacy can be breached."

And that is the scary thing for the modern teenager in our schools. Medical science has now ascertained that the human brain doesn't fully develop, especially in logic and reasoning, until approximately 23. So the risk taking behaviour and poor choices which characterises every one's growing up and maturing period (however long that takes - longer for some than others) now has consequences far into the future - which the teenage brain doesn't contemplate and cannot foresee. Being circumspect, self-contained, self-aware and discerning doesn't happen overnight and are attributes that many adults do not possess, let alone teenagers. Yet those characteristics are almost essential to safeguard yourself against the perils and pitfalls of the web 2.0 reality that so many of us are utilising on a daily basis.

So how does that impact upon my role of being a Teacher/Librarian. I feel strongly that digital citizenship needs to be part of the library program. To equip students to USE the technology as a tool to WORK FOR THEM, rather than being something that can be used against them, something which can cause them pain and negativity. It wasn't part of the role previously, but my tiny crystal ball seems to suggest that it will become one of the fundamental tenets of what a teacher/librarian should be addressing.

Seth Grodin in his blog on the future of the library also advocates that a teacher/librarian should be someone "with the guts to invite kids in to teach them how to get better grades while doing less grunt work. And to teach them how to use a soldering iron or take apart something with no user serviceable parts inside. And even to challenge them to teach classes on their passions, merely because it's fun. This librarian takes responsibility/blame for any kid who manages to graduate from school without being a first-rate data shark." And part of being that first-rate data shark is to use the tools that finds that data in a responsible fashion - that being on-line has rights AND responsibilities.

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