Inoculation: Our Responsiblities Year In, Year Out

Main takeaway from our meeting with Michael Thompson: inoculation.

Student’s social use of technology for communication, building friendships, developing identity, and trying on personae will continue. It won’t be entirely “harvested” for educational use, and nor should it be. It’s part of their growing up. It’s part of what school is for kids: 1,000 social experiments a day, as Thompson describes it.

However, it’s not like social media is a self-taught curriculum for kids. There are risks, and perhaps the greatest errors occur when their language and put downs and intentional hurtfulness directly affect each other. Not strangers or anonymous others on the Internet, but other kids they see almost daily in the halls or across the classroom.

The challenge for us is to understand that the message of how and why this is wrong needs to be expressed over and over again. From fifth grade to twelfth, using language and examples are are age-appropriate, and perhaps blunt and shocking and profane when necessary. Once a year, at least, hopefully at the start of the year.

Consider this an inoculation– an increase in sensitivity or awareness, and an attempt to clearly state each year where the lines are, the hurtfulness that is created when crossed, and the consequences of making these mistakes. To adults, it may seem obvious, but it’s not to many students.

Even a yearly, blunt and clear conversation may not prevent all problems, but at least we can be clear. It’s a responsibility.

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