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Innovation and Learning

Start with clarity of intent.

Now build it out with an evocative vision. Improvise progress by tinkering: with lots of trial and lots of error. The not knowing is the best bit: the mysteries the surprises, and from time to time the windfalls! 

Hello there, I'm Steve Collis! 

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My Lead Article for our School Newsletter

Digital Citizenship and the World Wide Web

Steve Collis, Director of Innovation

Technology has changed everything compared to when I was at school.

When I was 9 years old, Dad brought home a "Sinclair Spectrum" computer. I was enamoured, spending my afternoons figuring out how the BASIC code made the computer games work, and then trying to make my own. The graphics weren't quite up to today's standard.

I first noticed the existence of the internet in 1994. Computers had started speaking to each other, and it changed everything. Previously information was scarce, and mostly found in rectangular paper devices called 'books', but now acquiring information became 'crazy easy', like sipping water from a fire hydrant.

When websites became easily writeable everything changed again. Enter stage right Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook and a myriad of wannabes. I understand from our Senior High students that 'MySpace' is passé, but Facebook is de jour.

The internet has changed everything. Anthropologist Michael Wesch understated it when he said, 'we'll need to rethink a few things'.

For example, the privacy horse has well and truly bolted, stable door notwithstanding, as millions freely hand over their vital statistics, day to day diaries, and favourite foods to a for-profit company, no less, Facebook, Inc. Does anyone else remember the hullaballoo over the 'Australia Card' in the 80s? No protest this time. If information is power, then Facebook is punch-drunk powerful.

The copyright cat is also out of the bag. Post some authored nugget to the internet and watch it take on a life of its own. The new economics of publishing is crippling the traditional media. I watch YouTube more than television and read blogs more often than the increasingly thinner Sydney Morning Herald.

The new space of the internet brings incredible promise and potential. At NBCS we think carefully about this and how we, as a school, should respond.

At NBCS there is no conspicuous absence
of the very technologies that define students' navigation of day to day life, and will define their future careers. We recognise our ability as older, wiser adults to guide our young people in their navigation of the Wild Wild Web. We work through issues of copyright and privacy with our students, encouraging them to become responsible digital citizens.

Digital citizenship means our young people make informed and carefully considered decisions about what they do and don't publish, that they manage their online identity with great care, and that, respecting copyright, they use 'Creative Commons' licensing to both build on others' intellectual property, and to license their own work generously in turn.

Many NBCS classes, including kindergarten, have online 'blogs' moderated carefully by the teacher, with a careful safety regime that tapers off slowly as students approach Year 12. Our students are publishing poetry, stories and essays. They contribute to our live internet radio station 'BooralieFM'. Their artwork goes on display in our virtual art gallery, whose curator is in Year 8. A growing number of students are now proud authors of proper books that you can order online and receive in the mail (see http://stores.lulu.com/realaudienceproject)

And they have a very real audience! One class website, launched only a few weeks ago, has had 5,933 visitors. Our little bookstore has made 37 sales. A student CD review recently attracted a comment by the musician himself.

Consider how this audience changes a student's perspective on the value of their creativity. No need to wait until 'real life' after Year 12 to contribute to the world. Say your piece now, and be heard. It's empowering, and it breaks the passivity that easily takes hold in the routine of the classroom.

We have a nascent website drawing together all our publishing projects: www.realaudienceproject.com. Use it today to find a class blog, and leave a comment that will bring delight and new enthusiasm to our students.

You'll see at the same site that many NBCS teachers are now actively using blogging and messaging technologies to participate in a vibrant online community of teachers. For instance, Tim Barrett's 'Chaplaincy Matters' blog shows other teachers how the internet can be a vehicle for Jesus' message of reconciliation.

Jesus said we are the 'salt of the earth' and the 'light of the world'. It follows that we are also to be the 'salt of the net' and the 'light of the web', and that we should train our young people to be the same.