Kevin certainly has his hands full with this week’s readings. As soon as I read the title, I was instantly brought into the world of my favorite western. From the title alone I could feel the sun beating down on the dusty landscape. I could hear that iconic whistle, known to Clint Eastwood fans, blowing over the tumble weeds of what’s been going on across the Internet. This article presented plenty of Good, Bad and Ugly for me to blog about this week. Especially when I thought that this piece was going to be about ditching the real world for life online just because anyone going online can pick their friends, design who they are, and be who they would like to be. Online is safer and when things go wrong, you can just reinvent. It’s a good thing I listened to the rest of the piece. Digital Detox became a proper sequel. I needed Brenna Clark Gray’s words to put the entire tale into the right frame of mind for me.
The Good: Danah Boyd describes the Internet as place where people can go when the constraints of life won’t allow them to meet up with other like-minded individuals. I agree. It was the telephone for me during my childhood. I would spend hours on the phone chatting it up with young ladies. I used the technology at hand to reach out to the world when my mom said I had to be in the house. These days we have much more keeping the kids inside these days. Boyd describes moms who have scheduled their child’s life right down to the minute. Young minds need to interact with peers. Let the internet be that portal. My mom would never allow me to spend all night on the phone. Nor should a parent allow their child to spend eternity plugged in either.
Another bit of Good was when Boyd said, “there needs to be more conversation and less surveillance,” when dealing with young minds and Internet usage. I agree. I have two children. I know through conversations I have with my children daily; I know that they are making wise choices for themselves when exploring the online world. Could I be wrong? There is always that possibility. However, I don’t believe so. Conversation is much more enjoyable and requires far less energy than surveillance, which usually uncovers things the hard way leading to feelings getting hurt and trust breaking.
The Bad: I would like to hope that with all of the information young minds have a choice to access or not, that they would chose to error on the side of caution and not use the Internet as a therapist. Boyd spoke of how, during a time of inner turmoil, she used the internet to find people who were experiencing similar events and explorations about themselves. Boyd talks about meeting an individual who identified as transgender. Boyd says that she spoke about inappropriate subjects and ideas with this woman who returned similar ideas in kind. I’m glad that this worked out so well for Boyd. However, we need to ward young minds that with all of the technology at their disposal they need to use it to help them make smart choices and not blindly fling themselves out onto the web and hope someone treats them with the empathy they are looking for. Boyd was able to find someone like that. Many may not.
The Ugly: I do not agree that we are racist as a society. I do agree that our society has way too many racist in it. But I cannot accept that a few bad apples can destroy the entire batch especially when those few bad apples that to make their rottenness known to the online world. I live in such a diverse world and I interact within a diverse world online. Those societies in which I dwell are not racist. I have never worked for a racist company. The digital age, social media and the twitter-verse have given racists a huge soapbox to spew hate. Doesn’t mean all of society feels that way. It reminds me of Howard Stern. Years ago, early in his career, people used to complain about all of the things he said over the radio. People accused him of degrading society and warping young minds. Howard Stern’s response to all the people who didn’t like what he had to say, was to have them change the channel. What I don’t want to happen is for these racists to lose their soapbox. They have rights like we all do. But we can certainly educate young minds to either ignore hatred or listen objectively so that everyone can make up their mind for themselves. The simple fact that everyone has a phone is proof that everyone can now make an educated decision. Not knowing how to access that world of information falls squarely on the decision-maker. Not a phone on the planet that can’t tap into You Tube.
All I have to say is, “Brenna Clark Gray, I want to be your new BFF.” COVID di expose the strengths and weaknesses behind teachers teach and what students will and will not learn. Classrooms do not need expensive technology that only collects data to celebrate limited growth. Classrooms need to maximize what they have. The question is no longer what to use, but where to go. There are so many places online that can do more good for young minds than the expensive licensing deals education publishers are trying to cram down school district throats. My only concern is will we be able to help the kids who are thriving in this environment? Many kids who are thriving are beginning to feel left behind and left out. When kids who excel are in the classroom they get the praise from the teachers and peers. In an online world, kids who excel no longer get that. Teachers feel they don’t need to spend time with the kids who are doing great. This too is a problem that needs to be addressed in the modern classroom. Kids who enjoy achievement go to school and interact because it feels good. The digital world has taken that away.