- choosing user names and passwords (see Myth #1).
- accessing their e-mail accounts. Students would assure me that they had an e-mail account and that they knew how to use it, but then we would go to the lab and the truth was revealed: "Um, it just comes up on the screen at home..." Since their parents usually set up the accounts at home, many of my students didn't know how to get to the webpage and log-in. They needed explicit instruction in how to access their e-mail home page, and how to log-in to their accounts.
- sending an e-mail. OK, for real? Surely today's teens know how to send an e-mail. But here's the reality: the current generation has bypassed e-mail altogether and opted for social networking, chatting sites and texting in order to stay in touch with their friends. Remember -- their Internet use has, until now, been all about friends, not about school work. So many of them need basic instruction in composing an e-mail, proofreading it and, yes, sending it.
- sending an e-mail to themselves. I know, pretty obvious, right? But I had students who didn't realize they could send an e-mail to themselves. Since this is a surefire way to save a document in progress, it is vital that we teach our students how to do it.
- attach a document. Again, this was a great way to save their document when their flash drive failed, yet many didn't know how to attach their latest document to an e-mail. A simple task to teach.
Myth #3: Students will know that school work posted on a blog should meet academic standards.
One would think that if a teacher assigns it, students will know that "OMG... JK... c u l8r" would not be appropriate. But if they have only used their computer for chatting, they may not realize that yes, all 26 letters of the alphabet are indeed on the keyboard. Integrating technology into schoolwork actually provides a nice opportunity to teach our students the difference between informal (chatting, texting) and academic writing. In fact, I think that students today are writing MORE than teens of my generation did. Instead of trading gossip verbally on the phone, my students are writing their gossip on a tiny cell phone. It is up to us to make sure they understand the difference between chatting with their friends and posting an academic piece.
Myth #4: Students will know that their comments on a blog are seen not only by their peers, but also by their teacher (and possibly parents).
If their computer use has primarily been chatting one-on-one and texting with friends, teens today may not realize that comments posted on a blog post are seen by anyone who happens to stumble across that website. While teens take great pleasure in commenting back and forth on their classmates' work, they often forget that their comments are visible for all the world to see. Students need to know that anytime they comment on a post, the website will record the origin of the comment. The temptation to bully other students on a blog is great; students may feel anonymous when they are posting behind a computer screen in the safety of their home. Teachers who bring blogging to their students need to be clear about this up front so that students aren't caught after the fact.
Myth #5 (thanks to Donna, below, for reminding me of this!): Teens today are using the Internet to expand their world.
The potential for expanding one's world via the Internet is infinite: websites, blogs, wikis and nings allow us to meet, talk to, exchange ideas with and learn from people from all over the world, not to mention read about and view local and international news items as they are happening. But are teens today taking advantage of the word-wide-ness of the web? I don't think so. In my own home, reading the newspaper is a daily breakfast ritual. My own children started by reading the comics, and gradually worked their way up to reading articles they found interesting. But just when their little world should have grown through reading newspapers and websites, social networking exploded on the scene. Instead of going online to expand their world, they logged on to MySpace, Facebook and YouTube to see what the kids at school were saying, to watch videos that their friends liked, to reinforce their social circles. The Internet replaced the breakfast table newspaper, and their sphere of influence was reduced to the people they were already seeing at school everyday. Kids today use the Internet to socialize; they need to be taught how to take advantage of the web for discovering people and places and ideas outside of their own.