Monday, April 14, 2014

Coping With the F Word !

"What is the point of being alive if you don't at least try to do something remarkable?"
   John Green
     Let me start off by squelching all of the thoughts that this is going to be a post every bit as dramatic as the title suggests. No, this post has nothing to do with our ability to deal with four letter words. Nor does it have anything to do with profanity. However, it has everything to do with a challenge that children and young adults struggle with throughout their formative years in education. The challenge is one which all of  the stakeholders in the educational community must face, with eyes wide open and arms extended, ready to embrace.  Anything less will limit and inhibit the true growth potential of our children.
     While it is a challenge that both educators and parents struggle with at times , it is one where both must persevere in the end.  Both must figure out a consistent way to develop and maintain a positive culture of learning that encourages students to take risks, despite the possible consequence of failure.  In other words students need to feel that it is "okay"to fail. They need to understand that if they do fail, they will still have the support, guidance and encouragement from the people who they trust and need it from the most. They need to believe that if they do fail, their support system will not look at their failure through an "end game" lens but rather they will change lenses, take another look and encourage a fresh start. Most importantly if they do fail they need to believe that it is important and necessary to try again and again.
     Ultimately if our children do not fear reprisals for their failure they will be more likely to set higher standards of learning for themselves. They will reach  for them and they will push themselves far beyond their comfort zones. Thus accomplishing what they believed previously impossible.
     As role models that have experienced our own failures, we must be willing to share these experiences with our children. We must point out our own failures and the failures made by humankind in the past. We must also point out present day failures, in order to demonstrate our own resiliency.  Empathy is a key component of the growth process. Children need to understand that people prior to them have failed, people are failing now and people will fail in the future but the world still continues to make remarkable progress.
    Children  must also have a concept of what constitutes failure. This is where the waters get muddied. Here we have many challenging questions without easy answers. Is failure the inability to accomplish a goal?  Is it performing below expectations that are set for us? Is it mediocrity? Is failure a lack of understanding ,or the inability to demonstrate understanding? Is failure what occurs when promises are broken?  More than likely you can argue that it is all those things. You can argue that we all interpret failure differently based on our own individual reactions and the reactions of those that we care about. If we want our children to grow up and become confident adults we will help them to develop a healthy perspective when viewing the concept of failure.  We will also help them to understand the lessons taught by failure. In the end, they may turn a negative event into something that could have positive implications in the future.
     Coping with failure is not a new challenge. When the first humans began to walk the earth they encountered challenges, they succeeded and they failed. In fact they probably failed more than they succeeded. Yet they survived and eventually because they did, the human race eventually prospered. Tens of thousands of years later despite the failures of our ancestors we still prosper today.
     Our children are capable of accomplishing remarkable things but they must be able to cope with failure, if  they are to become confident and productive adult citizens. The survival of the world that they will eventually inherit depends on it. I have every confidence that they will.  However, they will only do so if we as their role models encourage them to take risks that fly in the face of failure and are accepting of those failures, once they occur.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Educating the Digital Citizen

"Come mothers and fathers, throughout the land. And don't criticize what you can't understand.  Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command.  Your old road is rapidly agin. Please get out of the new one if you can't lend a hand.  For these times they are a changin."
     -Bob Dylan, 1963

     The technological innovations and achievements of the early part of the 21st century have made it abundantly clear that we are in the midst of a "digital revolution".  A revolution that continues to accelerate change at blinding speeds, with no apparent end in sight.  A revolution that provides opportunities that ultimately benefit both the individual citizen as well as the collective "global" community. A revolution that continues to create far reaching, cross generational impacts.  A revolution that allows for endless opportunities for human connectivity and collaboration.
     As 21st century citizens it is critical to the social welfare of our society that we are aware of the power harnessed within this digital world. Essentially there is virtually nothing that cannot be accomplished with the utilization of our electronic devices. (ie. IPad, Smart Phone, Lap Top etc.) We shop, we lend, we chat, we exercise, we play games, we self educate.  The possibilities are endless! While the advantages and privileges gained from our digital citizenship are clear, it is equally important that we embrace the responsibilities that come with it. 
     As parents and educators we cannot afford to "get out of the new road". There is too much at stake to allow our children to pursue, new and changing digital opportunities, without the proper guidance and support.  We owe it to our children to continue to educate ourselves about our own roles as digital citizens.  We must model appropriate digital usage and behavior, as our children seek to establish their own identities as digital citizens.  This is the world that they will inherit in the future.  We must empower them to do so with confidence, when the torch is eventually passed.
     As parental and educational leaders, it is critical that we present a balanced view of both the positive and negative impact of digital technologies.  There certainly are clear and present dangers that exist.  With the potential misuse of social media, emails and texts, there can be life altering consequences for both the victim and the perpetrator.   States and counties across the nation continue to draft social norms and laws that seek to create effective parameters.  The hope is that they will ensure the safe use of all digital technologies and resources.
      Limits should be put in place to protect the young digital user. However we must be careful that the restrictions do not become completely prohibitive. Thus preventing their ability to grow as digital citizens or to gain from the intellectual value of the various digital resources.  
     There is positive growth potential available through the use of social media. The members of my PLN (professional learning network ) can attest to this.  We need to share with our children, what we have learned, how we use it and how to transform it into a powerful and effective learning tool. Our ultimate hope is that we can help guide and nurture productive citizens of the 21st century, digital or otherwise.
      Yes " These Times are a Changin" and will continue to do so. However, " getting out of the new road" and casting a blind eye, when it comes to something as important, as guiding and educating the 21st  century citizen, is out of the question.  Our children need us now, more than ever.