My students and I had an “a-ha” moment the other day, in terms of digital citizenship and how we really need to think before we post images to the Internet. Or maybe even before we take the picture.
We are working hard to discourage our students from taking “candids” of each other at school, and more important, from posting those pictures on their favorite social network. I know that may sound strange to many readers, but I teach some very transient, very high-risk kids, and we cannot guarantee the safety of some of our students if other kids are taking their pictures (and then posting them on Facebook to share with friends).
It’s a difficult situation. Everybody with a hand-held device has the ability to take a picture (and many can take video). My students know that I take pictures in class, to document what we’re doing, and that I encourage them to take photographs to help with their learning (grab a picture of the verb chart we’re working on, if it’s easier for you to use that medium — or take a photo of a favorite piece of student art, so you can describe it in French).
What we’re trying to cut down is the great shot of your “bestie” doing cartwheels on the yard that might also show the faces of three kids in the background who aren’t supposed to have their photos taken. A quick share of that picture puts those kids’ safety at risk.
Other than expecting those students to self-identify to their peers all the time (and some of the younger ones don’t even know that they’re not supposed to have their picture taken), one of the best ways to get the issue out in the open is to have a serious discussion with my Grade 6, 7 and 8 students, hopefully in a setting where we can all talk about it in a non-scary, non-judgmental way.
So, there we were, the other day, in the middle of one of these discussions, when a lot of noise erupts outside our room. There is a very unhappy child in the hall, apparently being physically moved by an adult. I knew it was one of our “child and youth” workers (CYW) on a “walkabout” with one of our challenged kindergarten students, but to someone who didn’t know the context, it could be a pretty disturbing snapshot or video image. This student is non-verbal, and one of the ways he communicates is by screaming. The screaming is often a way to communicate happiness, but it still sounds like screaming.
The CYW and I had talked about introducing our older classes to this student, so that they would know what was happening if they saw or heard him in their hallway. I invited them in. The kids in my 6/7 class were charmed by this imp, but quickly understood that he was very physical with his support worker, climbing all over her and clinging to her leg like a security blanket as they walked. They were fascinated by the obvious fact that he was happy, even though he was making a great deal of noise.
After their quick visit, I asked my students how the interaction between student and worker tied into our discussion about the consequences of posting something on the Internet without thinking it through.
There was one of those beautiful “whoosh” moments. If you’re a teacher you know the whoosh I mean. It’s like all the air gets sucked out of the room, and you can almost hear the pings as the light bulbs come on.
My students totally understood that should someone take a video of our kindergarten student with his worker — without understanding what they were actually seeing — and then post it on the Internet, it could have HUGE ramifications.
We talked about the fact that sometimes students will perceive a situation like that as funny and have the urge to share it with their friends. “Look at the crazy stuff that happens at MY school!” And then it goes viral and….
Getting real with digital citizenship
When my students left class that day, they were different kids than when they walked in my door. They really were. They had taken a minute to step into the shoes of a kindergarten student who communicates differently than they do — a vulnerable child who didn’t deserve to be the object of ridicule — and as a result they got a “real-world” context lesson in digital citizenship.
All of us who advocate for the learning potential of mobile technologies continue to navigate the hurdles of opening up BYOD devices in the unique context of school. But in my school we’re doing it together and that makes the hurdles easier to overcome.
What are you doing with your students to help “make it real,” as you teach them about digital citizenship
The original version of this post, written by Lisa Noble , appeared in this blog January 2013.
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This is wonderful Lisa! As we move to the next steps digital citizenship and engage in BYOD discussions, it’s EXACTLY this kind of perspective we need. Thank you! Again.
Thanks, Colin. I know that you totally get this, and I’m so glad that we get to work through the challenges of digital citizenship together. (Don’t get me started on the latest trend – videoing your friends as they make themselves pass out). Sigh.
Lisa, having EXACTLY the same kind of situation over here, this is such an apt story with such a wonderful learning focus – for your kids, but for me as well! Yep, I bet those kids really did walk out of the room having a different perspective on quite a number of things. Well done! Love the way you think!
Thanks, Cath. Glad to know I’m not the only one with a unique students population, that needs to have this conversation. Very lucky to have some great support staff, too, who are willing to help with this.
Great information here. Digital Citizenship is something that all of us need to understand and share.
You’re right, Jennifer. I’m taking part in #etmooc right now, and we’re talking about it a lot. Some of the best ideas I’ve heard talk about not teaching it to our kids as just another part of citizenship – right in there with character education. The digital world is part of your world, so you need to be the same citizen you are there, as in your physical world.
Great article. We have been developing and trialling a traffic light system linked to a series of acronyms to help students check and evaluate the connections they are making with others online, it seems to be working so far. We are also instigating a check system for images and videos, but getting the context is the key and your moment was priceless. How to “engineer” teachable moments is a conundrum!
Your system sounds really intriguing – have you shared it online anywhere? Because this is really totally new territory, I think we just have to grab the teachable moments as they come. I was just incredibly lucky to have all the pieces come together on that particular day, in order to have my students really “get” it. It’s hard to have the discussion without making it too scary for them, sometimes.
Very interesting post. I bet those kids started to really think about their pictures and posts in a different way. What a teachable moment.
Liz, I’m hoping that the lesson stays with me. The little character in question just wandered into my room on my prep for a visit, and I felt really lucky to have that time.
Thanks for the excellent example of (digital) citizenship as it came up in your class. This is exactly the kind of lesson/discussion that teachers need to regularly have with their students. There are so many examples of students and adults presented with digital opportunities and challengesâ€”at school, at home, examples in the mediaâ€”that talking about the latest incident is essential. Why is this an issue, how does it impact you and others, and what are your options are questions that every student should ask herself. Teachers don’t need to be tech experts to have these kinds of discussions. Thanks again Lisa for such a thoughtful example.
I really like your point, Ed, about not needing to be tech expert to have his conversation, and I love your questions to ask every student. They all need to be an important part of the digital citizenship discussion, and yes, you do need to talk about it in the moment, as things happen.
Just curious, you said “a vulnerable child who didn’t deserve to be the object of ridicule”. Who would be deserving of ridicule?
I do not think you have to be a special needs child to not be deserving of ridicule. I know what you meant and I applaud what happened in your room. I just want to urge you to extend that and use that experience to transfer that to all students, all people.
Becki – interestingly, that was an edit, not mine….and I kind of wondered about it, too. I would agree that none of us are deserving of ridicule. Thanks for the pushback – it’s appreciated.
Having had 5 minutes to sit down and think about it, I wanted to say thanks again for your comment. When I read the published piece the first time, I had to reflect a bit on that line, which I eventually decided worked as it was. I don’t think the suggestion is that the child is any more or less deserving of ridicule than any other child, though certainly vulnerable. I appreciate the chance to take another look.
I’m the editor who suggested that line, and I’ll admit that some punctuation might have helped! Certainly it wasn’t intended to say that some students are more deserving of ridicule than others. Some may be more vulnerable and less able to cope with bullying behavior, however. What I was really thinking about was how quickly we often see students in this age group shift their perspective from flippant to compassionate, with guidance from wise teachers and other adults (and kids). Lisa is modeling and advocating for this kind of guidance.
Great sharing. Thanks Lisa. This is a real lesson in digital citizenship. We all put such persons so much apart. Great to show us how to include them.
Thank you for a beautiful example of bringing digital citizenship into your English class in a very genuine, authentic, and timely way. The fact that you weave the need for students to be “community ready” as well as “college and career ready” into the core curriculum I am sure will have both an immediate and a lasting impact on your students.
Thank you again for sharing,
Gail – thanks so much. I am a Core French teacher, but when the word came down from the office that we needed to cut down on kids taking pictures, the kids brought their questions to me, because I’m the “techie” on staff. I agree that the “community ready” part is key.
I appreciate that this lesson on digital citizenship emphasized respecting the dignity of other people. That is such an important lesson for people of all ages.
I am a bit confused about the first part, though – I realize there is a lot of emphasis on “don’t show pictures of students’ faces because of kids’ safety” – and I am wondering if there are any examples of this actually endangering students. In the example given, under what circumstances would being in the background of a picture of a kid doing a cartwheel endanger those students any more than them being outside (and visible from the road) in the first place?
It reminds me a bit of the “don’t post your personal info online or you’ll get kidnapped” hype that schools used to push without supporting data. But I want to give the benefit of the doubt since there may be statistics or data I am not aware of yet. Thanks!
Great question. With the population I work with, there is a risk that they could be seen on the yard, yes, if someone knows they’re at our school; these are kids who we take out of the viewing area if a media outlet is in the building, who cannot be in whole school photographs when they’re taken. They are kids who are genuinely at risk if someone posts a picture of them on line, because someone is looking for them. That’s not a “trying to scare kids” piece (I agree with you on some of that), it’s just the way it is with the population I work with. Brutally sad, but true.
It’s never too early to start these lessons. As children engage with technology at ever younger ages, even Kindergarteners can grasp tangible skills of digital citizenship. Thanks for the blog post. http://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/curriculum
thanks, Crista. I’m a big commonsense fan, and I agree that even our youngest need to start to think about digital citizenship as simply a facet of citizenship. If we’re teaching character ed, it needs to extend to the digital realm.
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