From Columbine to Montréal, Information Literacy, and a mother’s heart

I wrote this several days ago, as I was trying to work through what I witnessed that afternoon in my own classroom, just several kms away from the tragedy. We are all still reeling from the event. My seventeen year old daughter had many friends there that day – just as I had many former students also there….

Yesterday was a sad day for Montréalers.I have been in touch with many of my friends from around the globe in the last day or so as we have tried to process the horrible tragedy that took place at a college here in Montréal early yesterday afternoon. The college is just several kilometres from our school and many of our grads now attend Dawson College. Just about everyone I know at school knew someone who was touched by the tragedy. I have heard many, many stories of friends and family members who were on campus when the shootings took place. One of our school’s families is related to the young woman who so tragically lost her life.

Our school now has a wireless network and has equipped our youngest high school students with laptops. It has only been a week since we have provided our students with this tool that permits them access to information at the touch of a button. We have shown our students how easy it is to access that information (indeed most of them are naturals – digital natives). As I watched their responses to the news yesterday afternoon – because they all rushed to look as soon as they were told at the end of the school day – I had to wonder if there is any way to prepare our students for what they saw. I was horrified by what I saw. Our technologies permit a cell phone users to take videos and photos. Our technologies permit us to easily share those videos and photos instanteously. But our technologies do not mentally prepare young minds to easily process images of people screaming as they flee a scene where a crazed gunman has taken charge.It is our job to protect our students, our children from being exposed to scenes of such violence – real violence – in this case, an act of random violence that seems so unthinkable to most of us.

For me, it raised the uncomfortable question of how to protect our children from seeing such things. For a while, the news was reporting that a gunman was still loose and there was a manhunt on for him. How could we know that it was not true? Even the police at the time believed it? Our children were frightened to leave the school – the safe place we had created for them.

Yes, what happened in Montréal yesterday is not an everyday occurrence. I appreciate that. I hope we will never have such a tragedy of such mindless violence occur again. But in this digital age of instaneous news delivery where the ordinary joe can catch violence as it happens and upload it in mere seconds, how do we prepare young minds to cope with the news?

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