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Digital Citizenship Means Criticizing Tech Giants

Recently, my Facebook page has lit up with articles about Google guys who have criticized standardized tests. It's a subtle message: Google is now on our side. Isn't that great?

They're the good guys, the ones who support critical thinking and creativity and believe in a mantra of "do no evil." They're the ones giving us really cheap Chromebooks and free apps. They're at the cutting edge of innovation, right?

But here's the thing: it's okay to think critically about things you like. I'm not unpatriotic to point out where our nation is screwing up. I'm not anti-school if I mention ways we should transform the classroom. I'm not anti-Jesus if I am honest about where churches are failing.

People are quick to criticize the large education companies (Pearson, etc.) but slow to criticize tech giants who often lobby for particular policies and have a vested interest in creating new tech consumers who will use their products -- be it devices or apps or advertising.

Something as small as a user interface is an inherently social and political document. The "tools" we use are also sites with social norms. Every tech platform has some level of social engineering. It's not a bad thing. It's how technology works. But it's also something students need to make sense out of.

I am not opposed to Apple or Google. I use their products with students. However, in an era of globalization, when companies are so actively involved in the economic, social and political systems of our world, we need to teach kids that "digital citizenship" is much more than making sure to take good care of your Google Glasses.

Photo Credit: by richibando
Professor. Author. Speaker. Maker.
I want to see kids embrace creativity. As a teacher, this has meant murals, documentaries, STEM camps, and coding projects. As a dad, this has meant quirky pillow forts and home-made pinball machines. This is why I co-wrote Wendell the World's Worst Wizard and co-founded Write About. I am convinced that design thinking can thrive in every content area, which is why I am launching the free design thinking course this summer.


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