Thursday, April 12, 2012

Part One: Give Me a Picture Sharing Site

This post is based on REAL conversations between myself, local law enforcement and technology directors. These discussions took place over time and with a variety of people.

When our local sheriff’s department took a stance against unblocking Picasa in educational settings I expressed to the technology coordinator in my geographically closest school district the importance of opening at least one such site. He didn’t get it. Arguments ensued.

First argument: Students will fall victim to predators. Yes, pedophiles lurk in picture sharing sites. They are there whether we’re teaching students to use these sites or not. Let me reiterate:  they are there whether we are teaching students to use these sites or not. If I can save even one child from abuse through education about avoiding victimization unblocking picture sharing sites is worth it. My argument is education may be the only way to save children from becoming victims. Yes, we will still lose some battles but there will be far fewer victims when we are truly teaching students about the dangers and how to recognize when they are being groomed.

Second argument: When students use “sex” as a search term they get inappropriate pictures. Duh. That is all. I might come back to this one.

students at iPad
Lewis Elementary School Students via lewiselementary on Flickr

Third argument: There are many other ways to teach digital citizenship. With myriad ways to teach students about using content on the Internet responsibly, picture sharing sites embody the best way to teach some things. Including collaborative media sites allows us to comprehensively teach students important things about responsible use of photos, video and other artwork. There are a number of technology skills we are required to teach students. Proficiency is expected by the end of eighth grade so as to capitalize on these skills in high school. To name a few where Picasa is an obvious fit:

  • Create original works as a means of personal or group expression
  • interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media
  • communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats
  • develop cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners or other cultures
  • contribute project teams to produce original works or solve problems
  • advocate  and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology
  • select and use applications effectively and productively

There are also a number of other Oregon state and Common Core standards that can be met through the use of Picasa. Picasa has been known to aid in teaching concepts to ELL students because of its visual nature. Students can publish drawings and other media, even their own written work through Picasa. Studies prove performance and student buy-in increase when they publish broadly versus within only the four walls of the classroom. However, through a Google Apps domain we possess the capability to keep sharing to a minimum until students are taught proper safety and digital citizenship.