The short-lived tenures of vibrant twenty-something teachers is a distressing trend at a time when their technical skills can help our youth navigate the 2.0 landscape. We already know that student achievement suffers with teacher turnover. Teachers' early departure from the field brings new concerns now. Without steadfast, digitally savvy adults guiding students, we are abandoning them to the Wild West of the Web and other technology for their crucial learning experiences.
The consequences of digital deficiency are real. In this new era of the digital footprint, treading carefully is an early lesson. Teachers should impress upon students that every time they post content on social networking sites and other parts of the Web, they are leaving permanent footprints of their lives for others to see and judge.
Moreover, too much is swirling in cyberspace for young people to discern fact from fiction by themselves. For example, the Web analytics company ComScore estimates that more than 30 percent of Web traffic is not even coming from real people, but from artificially intelligent robots. Many are producing content. Twitter is teeming with them. Foreign governments use bots (robots) to suppress and subvert their opposition. They've been affecting journalism, particularly in economics and sports coverage because of the heavy reliance on numerical data. The Washington Post has been considering using robots to generate stories about high school sports. If news organizations take such a step to cut expenses, where does it stop?
In this context, teachers can be of great help in sorting the tares from the wheat. Given that it’s impossible to control the quality of information online, students can at least learn to spot and focus on quality content. When teachers assign work, they should emphasize using named and reputable sources and give examples. They ought to stress the fundamentals of writing and grammar. Knowing proper sentence structure is one way students can detect these poorly written and structured stories. Teaching critical reading is of the utmost importance in this digital minefield. And the younger teacher who is technically savvy could be a great mentor to older, more established teachers making their way through the digital landscape. There is nothing more important today than making young people aware of the significance and sources of the information they're creating and consuming.
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