Exploring the grey

Nov 20, 2015 by     No Comments    Posted under: Be Responsible, Classroom

Have you every thought about how many of the decisions we make live in the “grey” space between right and wrong? This is one of my favourite topics to explore with students as it is an invitation for them to explore the process that they follow when they make decisions.

Think about this: You get a phone call in a public place. It is from a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time. You are excited. You proceed to talk loudly as you walk around. Is it ok to talk loudly on a phone in a public place?

This is how I opened up a discussion with a group of grade 5 students the other day and their viewpoints were interesting. Within moments a mini debate had evolved with students providing strong reasons for their belief.

Digital Citizenship Debate

This prompt was just a lead in to an inquiry about decision making in the online world but it forced a “rethink” about how we would address this issue.

As this discussion highlighted the students already had the background knowledge in what was “wrong” (black) or “right” (white) but what was interesting was how they navigated the “grey” in between. It was only through this invitation to share their thoughts that they were able to refine their thinking and make a more informed decision.

Luckily I work with a fantastic group of teachers and we went back to the drawing board and thought about how we could help support the student’s inquiries. Could we really just open this topic up to a series of deep discussions where we weigh the various viewpoints and then try to make an informed choice? We thought so, so we dived straight in.

We used Mike Ribble’s Digital Compass as a guide to help students with decision making and then we had students brainstorm potential situations that they might face online. They did an amazing job identifying the type of situations which really get at that “grey” area of decision making. Then a colleague, Jamie Raskin, had a great idea to turn these scenarios into a debate/game situation where students would pick a viewpoint and justify their opinion.

You could see the power of this activity when you heard the student’s debating/discussing these scenarios. They were able to identify all the issues that were involved and as a collective come to an informed and appropriate decision.

This experience has totally shifted my thinking about how to explore digital citizenship issues. Yes of course the students need some background knowledge but because these kids live and breath this world they are quick to pick up the basics. The issue is giving them experience with how to make appropriate decisions whilst they are there.

We all know that in theory some decisions should be “black” or “white” but in reality the choices people make fall somewhere in the middle. Why not help the students explore and grapple with this “grey” space?

Digital Compass

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