…70% of 18 to 24 year olds who use the Internet had experienced harassment, and 26% of women that age said they’d been stalked online – ‘Internet Trolls’, time.com
The Dark Side
Only a cursory glance at a Twitter feed is needed to learn that the trolls are out there, fishing. They no longer live in nursery rhymes, but online, connecting directly to our screens. The online world has a dark side, as well as light. As the video above explains, in the most serious cases; the Internet can be used for cyber-bullying, threatening behaviour and the proliferation of negativity.
With the press of a mouse button, we can also see poorly researched views and terrible writing. Click bait and mindless re-tweets. Networks are regularly used poorly and people are experiencing disconnection through connection. As this article lucidly illustrates, poor use of the resources at our disposal online often arises due to desensitization, deindividuation and a mob-mentality.
Indeed, in recent times I saw this happening through my personal social media. In the run in to the last American Elections, I was convinced that there was going to be a wholly different end result than what happened in ‘reality’. Our ‘friend’ lists on Social Media can often be a political echo chamber, where we are only really benefiting (if you choose to see it that way) from a single point of view. This is problematic if you are interested in a measured view of the world. It is a problem if you would like to use the Internet for educational purposes.
Moving Into The Light
As educators, we must model positive use of learning networks and groups, and give students the proper foundations in the effective use of social media – Andrew Marcinek on Edutopia.
It is essential that as our students make their first forays into the connections online, that we guide them as best as we can to be positive Internet users. To fill the world behind our screens with love, as opposed to strife. This article, though written primarily about Wiki Projects, provides excellent guidance on how to fulfill this duty.
As the teacher, we have to model not only how to use the Internet appropriately, have open conversations about how to stay safe online and also treat this as an ongoing learning process, rather than a one-off teaching point. The culture of trust that we have in our classrooms has to extend beyond our walls. Our expectations and goals have to be clear and concise, from the outset of our children’s journey.
Educators must be ready to run into problems, and show students how to navigate the hurdles that inevitably stand in their paths. When interacting on the Internet, we must provide the appropriate vocabulary and show exactly how to be kind to others. In aiding critical thought, we must also guide our students to accept, give and learn from criticism.
Finally, our students need time to practice. None of the above comes naturally, and instead the positivity can be honed through meaningful experience.
The Results Are In
In a previous blog post, I explained how I would use Twitter in order to increase the readership for my student’s writing. One month later, I have found that the children are really engaged in their writing and appreciative of the chance to write to a larger number of readers. The amount of conversations that we now have about writing for our readers has also greatly increased. The community of parents seem to like the idea, and some responded with ‘likes’ and comments.
The expertise has begun to become ‘crowd-sourced’.
…crowdsourcing is suspicious of expertise, because the more expert we are, the more likely we are to be limited in what we conceive to be the problem, let alone the answer – Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age.
But, it is now time to take our PLN to the next level!
Expanding Our Reach
I would like to do this on two fronts: one where samples of writing are displayed to a larger audience (expanding the ‘Twitter effect’) and the second in terms of blogged writing from the children.
As mentioned previously, Pobble seems like a brilliant way to extend the readership for written pieces of work, so the children and me will have a designated time in the week to upload work onto this website.
We will also use a segment of our week at school to blog. The Five Sentence Challenge and The 100 Word Challenge seem like really engaging websites to inspire story telling, with a competitive edge. This will hopefully allow the children to progress with regards to creative thinking and story crafting. We will also model for the children how to moderate and edit their writing before posting, and give them time to evaluate the writing of others through commenting (as in the ‘Evaluating’ section of Blooms Taxonomy Digitally). As an added benefit, it should aid the children’s spelling and typing skills – both crucial targets for my particular Year Group.
The Rule Book
Blogging in this way should provide my Year 3 students with a great way to increase their network and in which to learn how to be positive Internet users, who collaborate and are caring towards others. The activity will all be moderated by me, and protected as such, so it should be a good place to start. I will be there for the children as a regular point of contact, in a classroom which has a culture of trust, to help the children through the process of navigating online connections. We will learn together, and sort out any problems that we find on our way.
The images below show the clear and concise guidelines which I will set out for the children as we start this process.
Would you do anything differently if you brought these ideas into your classroom?
Do you think that these blogging rules are a good place to start?