While we can tell students again and again and again and again to protect their online identity, to make wise decisions, and to present oneself online as they would in person, often these are lessons that are only capable of being learned through experience.
Just this week a wonderful example of this presented itself, and while others would shy away due to the use of and fear of their children/students being exposed to certain language particularly in schools, I an adamant that we need to lean in to the learning, not shy away of the fear. These opportunities may present far greater lifetime learning payoffs than the risks and should be harnessed for this greater good (I am in no ways saying that this can or should be done without supervision or adult discretion).
In our fourth grade 21st century learning class, @21ststacy presented a great lesson using todaysmeet.com to engage students in a discussion about whit is means to be brave during the first week of school (http://todaysmeet.com/firstweek). The students were engaged in and enjoyed the lesson, and they were excited when Stacy shared it with our school families as well as her followers on twitter. A person who follows Stacy saw the lesson and decided to comment.
“What an amazing lesson. I wish our school did cool shit like this”
We use the “Think Chart” above with students to help them reflect before we post anything on any social network site (but this could and should also translate to reflection before emailing, texting or speaking).
T is it true?
H is it helpful?
I is it inspiring?
N is it necessary?
K is it kind?
Certainly reflecting on the “Think Chart” in response to the comment, one could raise whether the use of profanity is necessary and whether profanity in a response to a school or anyone is kind. The real lessons here are in opportunity lost and opportunities presented.
From an opportunity lost prospective: If the commenter had said the same comment without the profanity: “What an amazing lesson. I wish our school did cool stuff like this,” it would have been an opening or a chance for us to connect with the commenter and maybe set up a classroom connection or a Skype chat. Furthermore, had the presenters said “What an amazing lesson. Our schools does similar lessons with (padlet, edmodo…etc),” it would have been an opportunity for us to build on our CLN (classroom learning network) by adding a new source four us to learn from.
From an opportunity gained perspective: The use of the single word of profanity in his comment has changed it from a post that creates connection and allows our students to meet other communities to a powerful learning tool. We learn by doing and experiencing. Though we would love for our student and children to learn from things we say and the warnings and guidance we offer them, it is unfortunately in the mistakes that we make or experience that the most meaningful and long term learn occur. As the students joy for the activity and the sharing of this activity have created investment for them, the comment can present disappointment at the “sullying” of their effort. We can and must now share with them that this comment and harness the learning opportunity to discuss our, their, and this commenter’s digital footprint. We must let them know that employers, colleges, and organizations search for an applicant’s digital footprint and look for the ways in which the model their online self vs. their in-person self. This commenter has now created an entry in their digital portfolio in which they respond to elementary classes and teachers with profanity. We must ask them to reflect about whether it matters that the intentions of the commenter would good, as he was clearly giving credit to the work that the class had done, or whether the single error in judgment would be the impact of this contribution to his digital footprint.
No one wants their kids exposed to some of the profanity that they see regularly in the movies, news, and on the web. As teachers, however, we have to lean into these learning opportunities. Yes, it is our primary job and want to keep our kids safe, but safety is not achieved not preparing them and making sure that they themselves are making decisions on social networks and across digital platforms that represent their best self. They must have exposure, training, and the modeling to use these tools in a positive way to harness their benefit and to contribute always with the idea in mind, “is it true, is it helpful, is it inspiring, is it necessary is, and most importantly is it kind?”