Student PLN’s: Rules For Engagement

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May 5th, 2011

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Week 3 with Liz Castillo!


This week I would like to discuss more about how to set the stage for students to safely engage in social networking while allowing them to have fun and learn.  Last week, I wrote about the importance of relationship building before introducing the technology.  It is really important that students realize that what they do online is an extension of themselves.  Technology creates a false sense of anonymity and students will often need guidance on proper online behavior.  We cannot assume that just because they act appropriately in person that they will know how to respectfully engage with one another online.  I know of teachers who are hesitant to use social networking tools because of their fear of inappropriate student behavior.  As 21st century educators, I would suggest that it is our responsibility to use these tools in our classroom as a way to teach these skills.  If we don’t teach them, who will?  Students need an opportunity to practice appropriate behavior in a safe and secure environment and with proper guidance.

My school has done a good job at incorporating lessons on topics such as online etiquette, cyber bullying, copyright, and intellectual property.  We started teaching these topics before going 1:1 and continue to stress their importance through activities and discussions with our students.  It is a big part of our advisory program and has been an important component of our 1:1 laptop training.  We focus on these topics in an effort to set the stage for improving online student behavior.  Here is one of the videos we have students watch as a way to open discussions about cyber bullying:

Another great resource is NetSmartz, which is a website created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  There are links for parents, educators, and kids of all ages.  The videos on this site are great and students can relate to the topics.  There are also a lot of great ideas for discussion questions you can use with students.

We also have tried to get our parents involved by helping them to learn about these topics.  Many of our parents have expressed their concerns about the disconnect they feel with their child when it comes to technology.  We have had opportunities in the past for parents to come and hear speakers from the FBI who talk about online crimes against children.  Before allowing our students to take home their laptops, we require the parents to take an online safety course and pass a quiz to make sure they are aware of what types of things their child could be doing online.  In addition, our students have been given ‘assignments’ to go home and share with their parents about these topics.  Overall, the parent response is overwhelmingly positive and they are appreciative of the opportunity to learn more.  It also helps in reinforcing proper online behavior with students outside of our classroom.

Starting these discussion with students and parents helps to lay the groundwork for effective integration of social networking in the classroom.  It was important for me to start the school year by discussing guidelines for using these tools appropriately.  Having my students take ownership and get involved in setting the rules and guidelines for appropriate use was really important.  I wanted them to be vested in the process and I didn’t want to be the one dictating the rules.  We had discussions about proper online etiquette and students shared examples of appropriate use.  We set guidelines for posting and how to leave comments that were both positive and constructive.  The students also made an agreement to help monitor their behavior and hold each other accountable for their actions online.

Overall, I feel that all of the work that we put into laying the foundation and creating these guidelines has really helped my students to be successful in their PLN community.  I have to admit that we’ve encountered challenges along the way, however, it is with these challenges that the most valuable learning takes place.  I am thankful for the opportunity to have a tool like Edmodo that allows my students to practice appropriate 21st century social skills while learning, sharing, and collaborating.

I’d love to hear your ideas for setting the rules for engagement in regards to social networking, cyber bullying, and online etiquette.

Until next time…aloha!


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