I have had a play with ToonDoo, (see below), and I like the interface a lot. Students should be able to have a lot of fun indeed. Having said that though the site also has a couple of major flaws that will need to be rectified before I can possibly recommend it to my students. Unfortunately despite the conditions of service being sound there are numerous cartoons on the site that have very questionable content. Pleasingly I sent an email to the support and within the hour received the following reply
“Please rest assured that you are not the only one who has raised this issue of ‘inappropriate’ content and, please rest assured also, that we are furiously working on ideas for practical implementation of good filters. I will write to you in more detail, over the next couple of hours. Meanwhile, will you be so kind as to do your own wee bit in cleaning up toondoo? Just MARK AS INAPPROPRIATE (the small flag icon in right bottom) any content you don’t see as appropriate.”
Hopefully the good folk at ToonDoo will get on top of the problem ASAP as I can really see a big place for ToonDoo in my teaching.
With regard to the use of these types of tools in our classrooms, LuciedeLaBruere at Infinite Thinking has posted a great list of questions in her post that asks “How do we teach kids to cross a busy street?”
At a cursory glance I know that our UAP at school would fail a number of the key questions. It is usually distributed to all students K-6 regardless of the relevance and capability of each group, at the start of the school year after a quick find and replace of the key dates and routinely returned by all parents complete with the signed return that is to indicate that the family has read over and discussed the detail of the policy. It would be interesting to see how many families actually do engage in this discussion. Even though it is generally regarded as a sound document, I am not even sure what is the real motivation behind it. Is it informative, (if so then it is probably too long and poorly phrased), is it a mechanism for accountability, (if so then many students will have signed it in the full knowledge that they will probably breach it hoping not to get caught), or is it a way to blame shift so that if things do go wrong then the teacher/school can say that all reasonable efforts were made to guard against them. Food for lots of thought though I am not the person in charge of the UAP at our locale, another question?
On the theme of conduct it is also interesting to read via multiple sources that in light of the Kathy Sierra incident, (and others that are now coming to light), that Tim O’Reilly and Jimmy Wales have proposed a Draft Blogger’s Code of Conduct. That the code has been reported so widely (NY Times, BBC , The Scotsman, The Age etc) is notable and points up the need to be pro-active in promoting the use of these tools least these horror stories become cause celebres for tabloid journalists and distract us from the need to ensure that our students can not only cross the busy street, but find the best streets in the first place.
Speaking of other blog bullying incidents it was appalling to read about death threats on a local gardening blog,
“Another recipient of abuse was Age gardening editor Denise Gadd, who blogs for a small but loyal readership. Most of her entries receive just a handful of comments, but when she blogged about the frustrations of gardening under water restrictions in late February all hell broke loose.
After 17,000 hits and more than 200 comments, the post was closed as debate flared into vitriolic abuse. One man compared her to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. A third said: “We’d be better off if you were dead.”),
As if to exemplify this possible misspeaking or the take on usage of technology it is interesting to contrast the reportage and usage of statistics related to children’s usage of devices and the like. One comes from another local online paper, the tabloid Herald Sun, (again I read it in print first before locating it online is there a question that needs to be asked here?) Titled Gadgets Rob The Family, it bemoans the fact that the 3.2 hours spent by the average 16-20 year old using technology robs the family of face to face communication time. The report does go on to say that despite this 80% of respondents actually felt technology had improved communication, (this slant is not reflected in the headline though).
It is fascinating not only to reflect on the figures contained in both but also to contemplate the challenges both issue us. These challenges are not only in the approaches we take with our students but also in using and dealing with the media and parents in promoting positive learning experiences.
Just to muddy the waters though I also came across reports of another phenomem being the WILFs, (I think I’m one). Oh WILFS are those who spend endless time on the web at the end, (or part way through), of which time they ponder What was I Looking For?