We had the third session of a new parenting class my wife and I are teaching on Wednesday nights today, and things went really well. I just posted the recorded session as a podcast (it’s an hour long) and updated the wiki links for the resources we discussed.

I listened to Bob Sprankle, Cheryl Oakes and Alice Barr’s great Seedlings podcast from Feb 24th today as I drove down to southern Oklahoma, and was enthused to hear them focusing on a similar project in Maine to get parents more engaged and educated about the digital activities of their kids. Just like Shelly and I, they are not only wanting to get real with parents when it comes to the dangers of being online and the need for Internet safety education, but also focus on the OPPORTUNITIES available for powerful and constructive collaboration and learning. I REALLY enjoyed listening to their podcast today, and highly commend it to you. Bit by Bit / Seedlings is one of my favorite podcasts that I regularly listen to and learn from. Their parent education Internet safety / “get connected” wiki site is http://wocsdinternetsafety4parents.wikispaces.com Our wiki site for “Digital Dialog” is http://digitaldialog.wikispaces.com. If you’re wondering, the answer is YES: I did get email permission from the great folks at Club Penguin to use their parent/child penguin logo for this educational project! :-)

The core themes of “Digital Dialog” are providing:

…parents, educators, and other care-givers with resources, ideas and links related to encouraging regular communication between younger and older learners about safe, appropriate, and fun uses of digital technologies.

I want to invite Bob, Cheryl, Alice and anyone else interested in these themes to join a new “Ning” digital social network I created this past week for “Digital Dialog,” located at http://digitaldialog.ning.com. If you’re not familiar with Ning, it’s a very robust and flexible (yet simple) environment to create and share ideas and resources. The first Ning I joined was the Library 2.0 Ning created by Bill Drew. The potential of social networking sites like these to grow by leaps and bounds, empowering idea sharing and collaboration is just amazing.

Please join our conversations!


I happen to live in Oklahoma, and you probably live somewhere else, but those accidents of geography don’t have to stand in the way of our collaboration and learning together. No one has all the answers when it comes to Internet safety or the appropriate uses of the Internet at both home and school, but I know many people have great ideas. This project and this social networking site is all about sharing ideas. I think the best thing we can do with parents as well as teachers when it comes to learning is helping plug them in to online social communities where they can learn from and even teach others.

If you know of other similar projects around the U.S. or in other parts of the world, please let me know by commenting here. We need to promote more CONVERSATIONS with parents about the Internet, and as I think Cheryl said in the Feb 24th Seedlings podcast, parents have to be armed with more knowledge than just the idea that kids have to stay away from predators online. Certainly that is a critical need, but the conversation must be broadened to include SO MUCH MORE. I’m not going to go off on a political tangent here, but this reminds me of another podcast I listened to today from Tony Campolo (recorded in September 2006 from a British radio show) in which he discussed the problems with the U.S. Republican party’s fixation on two primary issues: abortion and homosexuality.

In the context of Internet use and youth, I think people in some cases are similarly fixating ONLY on the issue of Internet safety to the detriment of many other issues that need to be discussed. We need to talk about great sources of digital curriculum for teachers, parents and kids, and great starting points for Internet research like Yahoo for Kids and Nettrekker. We need to talk about the excitement and fun of Club Penguin and other gaming/social networking sites like Second Life, as well as the potential of safe blogging/DSN sites like Imbee, Think.com and YackPack to be used to foster student literacy development. At the same time, we need to recognize the need for BALANCE and LIMITS on different parts of our lives, including the time we spend online. (This goes for adults as well as youth, and I feel a bit indicted writing this as I am at 11:45 pm.)

To summarize, what I’m trying to express is that we’ve barely begun to have the conversations we need to have with all the parents and other caregivers in our communities about the dangers as well as the opportunities which the Internet affords. We shouldn’t be naive, however, and CONTENT FILTERING is really needed at home as it is at school. I wrote a new article this week for “Digital Dialog” which I titled, “Content filtering for home, school and church.” This is available as both a downloadable PDF file (3 pages) and a blog post on the Digital Dialog Ning network on which you can comment.

I’m quite enthused about the possibilities these tools provide us as concerned parents and educators. Our conversations are only beginning! :-)

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  • NoVaMan

    With all the negative stuff (regarding safety) you hear about the internet today, you rarely ever hear about all the positive things it can do for our youth. I’m glad I came across your Digital Dialog post and love the fact of promoting the internet to kids, as well as educating them about the dangers. I happen to know a few companies that are trying to promote education of online safety as well. A friend of mine recently sent me a site, http://www.netsmartz411.org/ , which was started through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Quest Foundation. I think its a great tool because it helps educate parents of children about ways to keep their kids safer online. I think you can even email a person specific questions and they can give you personalized answers. Good Luck! Hopefully, with everyones help, the internet will be a safer place for children in the future.

  • http://alicebarr.com Alice Barr

    Thanks for setting up the Ning Site. It’s really important that students learn to make good choices when using these sites. I look forward to collaborating with others on the positive aspects of social networking.

    Alice

  • http://www.bobsprankle.com Bob Sprankle

    Wes,

    Thanks so much for setting up the Ning! I look forward to the continued discussions!

    Bob

  • http://www.cheryloakes.com Cheryl Oakes

    Thanks for keeping the conversation going Wes! Ning is a great tool and as we add more people the word will spread. I will introduce you to Vinnie and his great idea for a parent group. I’ll send this site along to him.
    Cheryl

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