Don’t Eclipse True Learning Opportunities

Unless you live under a rock, you probably heard about the solar eclipse that happened today.  Across the country people were standing outside with their ISO-certified glasses, or their pinhole cameras, or just looking at the shadows poking through the trees. Strangers became friendly outside office buildings as they showed off their homemade tools and warned each other about the dangers of staring at the sun. Children held their paper glasses tightly to their face, while gleefully pointing at the event as it unfolded in the sky.

And yet, there were also plenty of students kept inside today. Many schools, fearful of becoming schools for the blind, kept students locked behind the safety of their classroom walls, resorting to NASA live feeds to simulate the experience.

I’m not sure why, in public education, there is this fear of providing students with experiences. I spent the past ten years of my career promoting digital citizenship as an important curriculum component for all students. However, it seems a bit bizarre to teach digital citizenship without giving students an opportunity to practice being good digital citizens. We give the students the rules, like not talking to strangers and protecting personal identity. We warn them about college recruiters watching their every move. We tell them that the footprint is FOREVER … all while blocking every social media channel in existence. At the end of the course, we congratulate the students for being good digital citizens, even though they have not shown us any application of their good citizen skills beyond completing a worksheet, or drawing a poster of the rules. It’s like teaching a semester class on football, and then awarding a student as MVP without the class ever playing the game.

Today was an awesome day for students to BE scientists, to LIVE science. And every day is an awesome day for students to be good digital citizens. We just need to give them the chance. We need to pop these bubbles we place students in so they can experience the “real world” we keep talking about. The world that is happening right outside our walls.

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