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Thursday, June 14, 2012

3 Rules to Practice for Good Digital Citizenship

With lowering the legal age on Facebook in the news, it is even more important that our students now learn how to practice good digital citizenship.  Although there does not seem to be “rules” out there in cyberspace, students need to be aware that there are.  We should have the same expectations of tolerance, manners, and civil discourse that we have in face to face conversations.  Bringing these tools into the classroom is an excellent opportunity to gets our students engaged in content and teach them civil discourse and proper communication skills in a digital world.

Good digital citizenship is no accident
How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice, practice, practice!  The same thing goes for teaching students good digital citizenship skills.  I have found that teaching three fundamental rules and allowing students to practice digital citizenship, got my students off on the right foot.  Mary Beth Hertz’s blog entry at points out that we as teachers need to pay as much attention to teaching digital citizenship as we do teaching them to become good classroom citizens. 

Three Fundamental Rules
When practicing good digital citizenship, I taught my students three fundamental rules:

  1. Show Respect:   Many people, adults and children alike, feel a certain freedom when they are “hiding behind” a screen name or computer screen.  Some use this freedom to express their opinions more freely and some use it to lash out.   Students using screen names and avatars in online discussions should be taught that the rules of class discussion – respect, staying on topic, and clear communication- carry into the online world.  Before you enter into an online discussion tool like SCAN from TregoED , Collaborize Classroom, or Edmodo you should make your expectations clear.  You can find a great set of rules to teach students to “Interact with Tact” or practice the 10 Core Rules of Netiquette.  These lists of rules point out seemingly obvious things like  “politeness counts” and “avatars are people too” and explain how they apply  to digital discussions.
  2.  Practice Civil Discourse:   Before they go online, give your students the “Dos and Don’ts of Online Student Conversation”, a set of guidelines focused on teaching students how to practice civil discourse.   This set of guidelines from Collaborize Classroom gives students some great pointers like “critique the content and not the person” and comment starters to use when they are engaged in debate online such as:
·         I respectfully disagree with Lawrence’s assertion….
·         I really appreciate Deborah’s insight into….
·         Thank you, Manuel, for sharing….
·         Great point, Angela! Have you considered…?
Great models for practicing civil discourse.
  1.  Stay on Topic:  It is perhaps a reluctant teacher’s number one fear that students will say something inappropriate online.  When students have the opportunity to talk in class, you run the same risk.   Why would you expect anything different in online discussions?  Although students may be more tempted to speak out of line in an online discussion, you will also have a clear record of it.  No more, “he said, she said.”  I find pointing this out, monitoring the conversation and addressing students that stray, can help teach them this very important lesson.
There are lots of opportunities, platforms and guidelines to have students practice good digital citizenship in any content area, that are free, flexible and private- perfect practice rooms to get students started on a path of good digital citizenship.  How do you incorporate lessons in digital citizenship in your classroom?

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