As phrases go “talking to strangers” is hugely loaded. It brings connotations of child molesters, kidnappers and generally wierd and unpleasant people. We teach our students and our own children about “stranger danger” and alas many people live in fear of strangers.
Given this you can image the response at a recent conference when Will Richardson said we should encourage our students to talk to strangers. But he is right we should talk to stranger.
I was sent yesterday an article from Ian Jukes About Digital Footprints. This is another loaded term, the digital footprint is
seen as this permanent and unerasable trail of actions, conversations and activities that you have on the web. It like talking to strangers is used in a negative context. But here’s the catch we should leave digital footprints. http://ascd.typepad.com/blog/2011/04/what-do-students-know-about-positive-digital-footprints.html
So many of the discussions we have with our students regarding digital citizenship have a negative connotation. We shouldn’t talk to strangers, watch out for your digital footprint what you do will haunt you for ever.
But actually we should be talking to strangers, we must talk to them. This is how we develop a mutual understanding of different cultures and religions, this is how we discuss the issues, events and situations beyond our four walls. We live in a world where we can be in Auckland, New Zealand one day, Sydney the next and the following week in Singapore or london. Where Moscow, Beijing, Yokohama, Abu Dhabi, Montreal and New York are only a skype call away. These are the strangers we need to talk to. How many people have seized the opportunity presented by Skype for education?
Yes, there are Strange Strangers out there, and part of our digital citizenship program must be to educate students on what to do and what not to do, on what to share and what to keep private. It must not be to hide in our comfortable community, talking only to those we known, discussing only from a limited perspective and point of view the things that matter. This is living in fear.
I agree with Will, we need to talk to strangers.
The same can be said for Digital Footprints. We should be leaving digital footprints and making sure that these footprints
are the ones that will only be seen positively. We need to be reflective, considered, appropriate and sensitive in what we say and do. The photos we upload, the comments we post, the blogs we share should reflect positively and appropriately on us. The footprints we leave in the sand (we its more like concrete) should be sharp and clean, not smudge, blurred and dirty.
Our students should cherish their digital footprints as positive reflections of their learning and development. They are not something to be avoided, tip toeing around quiet and missable nor should they be huge stomping boot prints splattering mud. Instead they should show the journey of well placed steps traveling from one stage of learning to another.