Young people negotiating digital technology

By Genevieve Helliwell

When it comes to the internet, there are no boundaries for what you can do and who you can connect with.

Teaching students how to be safe while learning and embracing new technologies was the topic of a seminar in Tauranga on Friday led by an international expert in 21st century learning.

Jason Ohler of the University of Alaska spoke to more than a hundred Western Bay teachers at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic's professional development day.

Technology was always changing, therefore, change was inevitable, he said.

"Traditional literacy only opens the door to so many people but when you embrace new technologies, the door suddenly opens to a whole lot more people," he said.

Dr Ohler was in town to encourage teachers to embrace the ever-changing technologies and encourage them to incorporate digital technologies in their classrooms.

"Students have an immense creative potential and we stand between them and the outside world.

"We are the gatekeepers and they're banging on the door with their iphones and ipads and mashups and begging to show us what they know.

"They know how to use the technology but they're not wise about how they use it so they need us now, more than ever."

While digital technology can open the door to a plethora of learning opportunities, students, parents and teachers were all responsible for being safe online, Dr Ohler said.

"Every time you go online you leave a digital footprint. This can have a very negative connotation but it doesn't have to. People just need to be aware that everything they do online is being recorded."

"And instead of being frightened by it, realise you're never going to be able to hide it so you better leave a positive one."

He encouraged youngsters to use technology and offered some words of advice about being safe online.

"Be selective about how you identify yourself and who you talk to. For kids it's about not giving away your address or phone number and think about whether you want to reveal your real name and photograph."

"Parents need to be open with their kids and be aware of what they're up to online. Ask your kids who they talked to on facebook or how they used the internet at school."

"It can be a bit overwhelming but it's quite an exciting time and it's all being driven by changes we can't possibly foresee and in order to use and embrace this technology for good, we need to understand what our values are."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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