Responsibilty, Respect in Online Spaces

Gazette Article Aug2010

Last week, I  submitted to our regional newspaper, The Daily Hampshire Gazette, which has been running a series of columns under the banner of  “The Aspire Project” around issues of bullying, respect and other issues that came out of two young suicides in our area.  One of those local young people, Phoebe Prince, has been the subject of many national publications and media, particularly since her high school tormentors used social networking spaces to target her. The other, a boy from the big urban center, who also took his own life around the same time is mostly forgotten in the news.

I’ve been waiting for someone to write about the use of online spaces for the Aspire Project. Finally, I couldn’t wait for others, so I wrote my own short essay on the topic of respect and responsibility when it comes to technology.  My attempt here is to urge teachers not to turn their heads away from these online places, and instead, use the use of these sites as a way to foster community and communication. That said, I acknowledge that it is a difficult journey for wary teachers.

Earlier this week, my column hit the front page of the newspaper, and I have received a handful of comments from parents and teachers that I see at my sons’ baseball games, and in our neighborhood, and at camp drop-off. Most are not sure what they need to be doing, nor how to enter into the conversations. One teacher noted that their school forbids most use of technology, so the possibility of online work is almost nil.

I decided to make the piece a podcast, too, and so here it is:

Listen to “Expect Responsibility, Respect in Online Spaces” (note: the podcast essay is about 6 minutes long)

I’m not pretending I have all the answers, but I do believe my last line sums up a lot about my thinking: “We need to be paying attention.”

Peace (in the reflection),

One Comment
  1. Thanks for making this podcast, it is an excellent essay that succinctly covers all the key issues.

    For me, although social networking is something that I integrate into my teaching (I’m an English teacher, and this is a rich area for studying how identity is constructed) I find that the lessons that you discuss – responsibility, community awareness, language awareness, anti-bullying etc – can be embedded in the not-so-social online spaces of blogs and wikis.

    I used to have my grade 12 students as friends on Facebook, and we even made a class study group on there (a great way to re-direct procrastinating souls to their study, ha!). This worked well for me, but there are many, many pitfalls. Teachers need to have expertise in their own online language before attempting such things, I believe. You could of course make a Facebook study page without ‘friending’ the students, and this is something I would recommend. Most schools and systems prohibit this now anyway (teacher-student ‘friending’).

    Finally, I think it’s important for teachers working online with kids to model best practice. Teachers writing in dense (as opposed to occasional) txt/IM language is absolutely cringe-worthy IMO!

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