As teachers introduce technology into the classroom, it’s critically important to introduce protective practices into their online discourse. The internet is one of the most democratic institutions of all time, allowing anyone and everyone to publish, to discuss, to learn, and to be a part of the global community. However, it is naïve to believe that everyone on the internet is going to be a good person. Maybe there’s a life lesson there? Me, in my cynicism would love to tell children that people are terrible, and that that should be the baseline. When they surprise you with being mediocre or even pretty decent you can be pleasantly surprised. But I don’t think that would go over well.
Luckily, there are resources that teachers can take advantage of in order to work around this most democratic of institutions. Read Write Think, and the NCTE has compiled a list of resources specifically for this purpose. One resource that I’ve come across emphasizes techniques that we used effectively in our CO301d course. The gist is that the teacher institutes a dialogue among their students, that they will come up with ways of interacting online that are able to be controlled by the teacher, but are constituted by student ideas. This involves designing an acceptable use policy, and defining norms of online interaction. For example, a teacher can prompt students to describe the type of feedback they would like to receive, and “class norms” that are universal rules for interacting within the classroom spaces of the internet. Students decide what is appropriate in terms of comments, how to approach disagreements, and how to provide criticism.
This allows teachers to go beyond the run-of-the-mill instruction on creating safe passwords and keeping personal information off of social media. It allows students agency in deciding what makes a good global citizen, and what makes a good internet user. By emphasizing the connection between students’ online profiles and their day-to-day lives, teachers have the opportunity to show how people craft their own stories.