For many years, the technology policy at my school was the “walled garden”. The very phrase brought to mind lonely, sad Collin Craven shut away by himself in The Secret Garden. Our children were to be locked away. It was too dangerous to allow them to be in the digital world. Don’t misunderstand, students need to be supervised and taught to be safe online, but more that that, they need to be part of the global world if they are to flourish in a digital global society.
As my school moved over to Google for Education, sharing and collaboration became an option, though still, most teachers preferred their walled gardens. Last year I became involved with Mad About Mattering and it changed my teaching life. Vickie Davis was a wonderful and encouraging mentor and even though my students were only third graders, she made them welcome in the project as a sounding board. Sounding board groups comment on topics and features at various stages in the app development process. While we were not yet ready to develop our apps on the very rapid timetable of Mad About Mattering, my students also developed apps that addressed their heart issues, albeit at a more reasonable pace for younger children. I saw first hand the value of teaching our students that they can make a difference in the world by the things they produce. Writing and design skills become something real when a student shares something with others and it matters to them. Students of all ages deserve to make their work visible to others, not in ways that expose the students to danger, but in ways that allow them to display their best work to be both admired and critiqued. I am always looking for avenues to allow students to share with the world. If you have a favorite tool or space for sharing, please comment. Students need to know that their work can matter.