Long gone are the days of blackboard-, overhead projector-, and pencil-limited classrooms. Today’s teachers, students, and parents are wired to a seemingly limitless world that goes far beyond just Minecraft, Candy Crush, and Angry Birds. Exciting, engaging learning using the Internet and social media sites is just a click away … unfortunately, so are a lot of sketchy characters, questionable content, and inappropriate behavior bolstered by a false sense of anonymity.
So, while using the Internet and social media in K-12 classrooms is opening up a magnificent world of exploration, collaboration, and deeper learning, it’s also opening up Pandora’s Box. Consequently, all of us in the education community have a tremendous obligation to help our students clearly understand what it means to be part of a virtual community – how to be safe, respectful, and responsible — how to be good digital citizens.
First and foremost, students should be encouraged to only participate in age-appropriate activities; for guidance on that look to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Sensitivity to technology access – or lack thereof – is also paramount when using online tools to enhance learning. Additionally, we need to teach students safe ways to engage online and with whom NOT to engage.
Consider enlisting a group of your students to create a classroom “digital honor code.” This type of co-development will help students feel a sense of ownership of the expected conduct.
They can turn to … well, the Internet … as can educators and parents, for help finding resources regarding online safety and acceptable behaviors. Common Sense Media is one of many terrific resources. The organization’s mission is to improve the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.
One of the insightful entries that caught our attention on their site is their five tips to help teens create a virtual world they can be proud of:
Think before you post or text – A bad reputation could be just a click away. Before you press the “send” button, imagine the last person in the world who you’d want seeing what you post.
What goes around comes around – If you want your privacy respected, respect others’ privacy. Posting an embarrassing photo or forwarding a friend’s private text without asking can cause unintended hurt or damage to others.
Spread heart, not hurt – If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it online. Stand up for those who are bullied or harassed, and let them know that you’re there for them.
Give and get credit – We’re all proud of what we create. Illegal downloading, digital cheating, and cutting and pasting other peoples’ stuff may be easy, but that doesn’t make it right. You have the responsibility to respect other people’s creative work – and the right to have your own work respected.
Make this a world you want to live in – Spread the good stuff. Create, share, tag, comment, and contribute to the online world in positive ways.
Finally, don’t forget about all the valuable education software solutions out there, many of which have already done the work for you by culling and compiling safe, educational Web sites. For example, our own Renzulli Learning boasts a database of more than 40,000 secure and vetted resources your students can use to deepen and extend their learning.
How do you promote good digital citizenship among your students? Share your ideas in the Reply field below. Watch this space on Monday for Part Two of our Internet Learning series in which we’ll delve into some of our favorite ideas for using the Internet and social media for teaching and learning. And, in Part Three, we’ll share Internet safety and responsibility ideas for parents.