As students become more technologically savvy, the more they want to communicate via social networking. Social networking for students has become an integral part of their daily lives. Whether it is Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter or Instagram, students want to share aspects of life with others quickly and publicly. Roblyer & Doering (2014) state that social networking is a distraction and often increases cyberbullying. However, students have a lot to learn from using social networking if teachers use it as an educational tool and resource.
Many schools have acceptable use policies that will discourage cyberbullying and even the use of social networking on the school campus. Some schools have sites such as Facebook blocked on school networks but this doesn’t eliminate the usage of these social networking sites outside of the school boundaries. Many students still also have personal devices (ie: cell phones) which they can access the social networking sites on campus. So is it really the best solution to ban them?
Perhaps the better method of dealing with the risks of online social networking is educating our students on how to be positive digital citizens and leaders. One of the things teachers can do is educator students with a proactive stance. By teaching students how to create strong passwords, not to share passwords and report to adults when someone they don’t know contacts them or someone is acting inappropriately online. Students need to understand how digital literacy is applicable to them and use online etiquette when communicating with others.
In addition, students need to be educated about how to deal with cyberbullying. Thus, they need to learn how to become more resilient and act responsibly. Again, by taking a proactive approach to this issue, students will have the required skills and strategies to help them successfully navigate a situation when an issue does arise.
As a teacher, I also feel it is important to model appropriate online behaviour. This past year, we used Edmodo which mimics Facebook for students in a more private setting. The students learnt about creating online profiles that were appropriate for their grandmas to see and learnt how to communicate effectively and appropriately with others online. Google Classroom can be used in a similar fashion. My students know that I have a Twitter account and that I use it for a specific purpose - education. This social media network to me isn’t for my friends and family. We talk about setting clear boundaries of who you will ‘friend’ and who you will not. In addition, I have had a weekly Gmail Home Writing programme for the last two years with my Year 5 students. This has helped them grow in their understanding of proper email etiquette and online communication. These skills can be transferred to other areas of online communication as well.
There are a number of great resources to help educate students as digital citizens:
Common Sense Media
Ribble (2009) outlines the nine elements of being a digital citizen. If teachers adequately taught the necessary skills to be a good digital citizen, it is the hope that there would be a decrease in cyberbullying.
We will never be able to stop our students from participating in online social networking sites. However, it is our job to educate them so they may make choices they can be proud of and communicate in a safe manner with others.
Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2014). Integrating educational technology into teaching [Sixth Edition].
Ribble, M. (2009). Passport to digital citizenship: journey toward appropriate technology use at school and at home. Leading and Learning with Technology, 36(4), p. 14-17.
I was born in the late 80s and began school in the early 90s, thus I entered into the Internet Era pretty much from the beginning. For almost as long as I can remember we had a computer at our home. Although, as a child, I was not allowed on it as often as I may have liked and was usually restricted to about 30 minutes a day until it became necessary to have word processed assignments in high school. Primarily I used the computer at home as a means of entertainment to play simple computer games. As time moved on to the late 90s and early 00s, I began to use our home desktop computer to communicate with my friends via MSN and other social media means. This allowed the computer to be a true source of interaction and communication amongst those most important in my life.
In terms of technology in my schooling, we didn't have desktop computers in my class when I began elementary school. However, we did have a computer lab. As a class, we had a computer class once every other week. I still remember learning about putting a floppy disk into a computer and how you could save files to the disk.
As I moved into upper elementary, I transferred to a different school. This school had desktop computers (2-3 per class) in the classrooms. This allowed us to publish our work through word processing programs. It was an expectation that our assignments were completed in this way for most things. As I had the computer at home, it became helpful in ensuring my schoolwork was properly completed.
In high school, again we only had a computer or two in some of the classes. However, we did have a library with computers we were allowed to use for our work when we had time. We also had computer classes. In Grade 9, all students were required to take an introduction to computers and technology course where we learnt about spreadsheets, the way computers worked and its parts, simple graphic design and proper typing. While I actually hated this course with a passion, it did prove to provide me with the foundations of technology that I would need in order to be successful as I moved on in my career and education. I was truly a child that grew up in the internet era using technology for communication, entertainment, education and more.
In university, I received my first laptop. This became my lifeline to success. I took all of my university notes in Word documents, accessed the school's online library for journal articles and used the Blackboard Learning System to communicate with professors and gather weekly class notes. All of my assignments were required to be published online and submitted through Turnitin for academic integrity. University was also my first exposure to things like DC++ (online sharing and downloading amongst university students). The ethics behind these became something that was an interest to me.
I chose a university for my education degree that had a focus on technology. We learnt about using things such as Interactive Whiteboards, clickers and a variety of presentation tools. At the time, it often seemed as though the technology was the way to teach and not necessarily a tool or resource just like everything else in your classroom. I think this was something I really began to understand better in my 2nd year of teaching when I had my own 1-to-1 laptop class.
My first year of full-time teaching was teaching Grade 1 in Beijing at an international bilingual school. I was shocked when I arrived in little to no technology, only 1 computer lab for the entire school and no computers in my own classroom. After training at a university that valued technology in education, I had ended up in a place quite the opposite.
Luckily, I moved on after 1 year to an international school in Singapore where I taught Grade 4 with 1-to-1 laptops. It was a huge adjustment and I had to learn quickly all the applications and how to best teach them to my students. We are a Google Apps For Education school and we use our laptops on a daily basis. They are a resource that can be picked up and used or may just sit there for a few lessons untouched. We really emphasise the skills that will help our students be successful in the 21st century rather just how to do something. We also use a lot of mobile technologies including iPods and iPads when necessary. The students have e-portfolios that they work on throughout the year and regularly share them with their parents.
Next year I am moving into an education technology coach position. I am excited to help teachers utilize the technology in the classroom as it changes and evolves. I know I will have to really support them with best practice and do a lot of research and professional development for the teachers so they don't feel burdened or overwhelmed with the technology that is ever-changing. While I may not have been a part of all four eras of digital technologies, I look forward to what's to come and the next edtech challenge.