Teaching Digital Citizenship in a World of Anonymity

When I first started blogging with my students, I noticed that bad social media habits had slipped into their published posts: disrespectful comments, texting lingo, and silly graphics that didn’t communicate what they were learning in class.  They felt free to express themselves any way they wanted to, hiding behind the mask of the computer in a world of anonymity.

Fortunately, Kidblog has some strong teacher controls.  I can choose to edit posts and comments, send them back for revisions, or delete them entirely.  I can decide if a post or comment is published publicly, just to our classroom, or privately.  This gives me an opportunity to guide students toward respectful, responsible behavior in our classroom and their social media lives.

I considered carefully how much I wanted them to express themselves in our classroom blog and I finally came up with a real world role that establishes the kind of standards I want to see in their writing: I am the editor.  In any publication, someone is responsible for maintaining standards for content, grammar, and images.  Nothing gets published unless it meets those standards.

The first rule in my room is respect.  We have daily class meetings where we agree to disagree about smaller issues like favorite video games and bigger issues like current events.  I have established that how they treat each other online needs to show the same level of respect that we have face-to-face.  I tell them that I expect them to behave better than some adults I know.  (They like that.)

Like an editor at a publication, I assign the posts.  I allow students to write some topics of their choice, but ultimately, I have the final say on what goes in the blog and what stays out.  For example, I have a student whose passion is geography.  He now has a place to write reports with a real audience who responds.  On the other hand, I didn’t allow a fake book review someone else posted. I want our classroom blog to be a place where we share honest ideas in writing.

Allowing students to choose and post images has also been a point of discussion.  We talk about copyright law and how they cannot post someone else’s photograph or drawing without the artist’s permission.  I insist that they use the graphics Kidblog provides or create their own. I also insist that any graphic they create or modify shows the same level of respect as their words.

Although it is three-fourths of the way through the school year, I still have students who don’t edit their comments for spelling, punctuation, or capital letters.  I have certain words that I want spelled out instead of abbreviated and I have explained that every publication has rules to maintain consistency in every article published.  Students need to practice writing in Standard English.  Depending upon the errors, I either fix it, have the student edit it, or delete it completely.

Blogging with my students this year has had a learning curve.  We have had some conflicts over the standards I set for their writing.  I know I will not be able to stop every unwise post my students make in the future, but I can have influence now.

About the Author
Mary J. Bauer is a fifth grade teacher in Mountlake Terrace, Washington. She has been teaching elementary students for twenty-five years. She also blogs at http://artistryofeducation.blogspot.com/

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