At the beginning of every school year, I go over my expectations for my students. We talk about the materials they need to bring every day, examples of active participation in class, and what to do if they are absent. For the last three years, I have also covered digital citizenship. We discuss what to share and what not to share on the Internet, we talk about knowing your audience, and we review unsafe sites and cyberbullying.
I teach French at a middle school in the heart of the Silicon Valley, where we have a 1:1 iPad program. Before our students receive their iPad for the year, they and their parents must sign our Acceptable Use Policy. Among other things, like taking care of the iPad and reporting damage, students agree that they will not access, post, or display inappropriate material that is threatening, obscene, sexually explicit, or that could be considered as harassment of others. Our school recognizes that students need a lot of training in how to use the Internet and their iPads, so we have a Digital Driver’s License Program for 6th graders. Throughout the year, once a week, the students meet for a class period to compete in fun challenges while learning about Internet safety and the educational apps at their fingertips.
I strive to make my classroom a safe place for collaboration, and I consider our Edmodo Group an extension of my classroom. I talk to students about appropriate Edmodo use and I have them sign an agreement at the beginning of the year which includes refraining from posts that tease, bully, annoy, or gossip about any other class member. If they do not practice good digital citizenship, they may be relegated to “read-only” status, which means they can only post to the teacher. My students love to interact with each other online, so this is really seen as a punishment to them and is a great deterrent.
As a result of all of the training they receive from me and their Digital Drivers License Program, I find that my students are respectful and encouraging of one another in our Edmodo Group. They remind each other of upcoming events and what to study. They ask questions about the homework, and can respond to and correct each other’s work. They have a secure place to connect and participate in class discussions. With Edmodo, they engage with each other and their schoolwork in a much more efficient and meaningful way.
For me, Edmodo is a safe place where my students can access all of the information I want them to. I can link to YouTube videos without directing them to the general YouTube site. I don’t have to worry about inappropriately suggested videos on the side of the page, or pop-ups to distract them. My students love learning about French culture and could spend hours trolling the Internet for funny videos. I use Edmodo to post links to games, extra listening practice, videos, and grammar tutorials that I have vetted and allow my students to pick from the ones I have culled. I do not want to crush their enthusiasm for searching for information, so I try to help them by directing them to a safe place where they can access it.
I think it is imperative that we continue to teach students about Internet safety. Some of my students are still quick to post pictures, videos, and comments to the Internet without thinking through the consequences of these actions. I don’t think that this is just a middle school problem, as I still see adults retracting posts they have made public. I encourage my students to reflect on their actions and try to help them learn from their mistakes and those of others. I am thankful that we have Internet Safety Month to draw attention to the need to incorporate digital citizenship into our curriculum.
How do you ensure Internet safety in your classroom and on Edmodo? Share in the comments section below!
Amy Ridlehuber Kingsley is a French teacher at Hillview Middle School in Menlo Park, CA. She has been teaching for 16 years at both the middle and high school level. Amy is a 2014 PBS Learning Media Digital Innovator, Edmodo Ambassador, and Certified Edmodo Trainer. She loves integrating technology into her classroom and enjoys leading professional development for other teachers. Amy’s other duties include being a wife and a mother to a 5 year-old daughter and a 7 year-old labradoodle.