The toughest waters often come at the beginning of this
digital citizenship journey. Our biggest opposition and hardest
questions came before the implementation.
same as using a social network to
connect with friends and family.
We stress to our students and to the
participants in our Flat Classroom
projects that an educational network is
a professional group of people coming
together for the purpose of sharing experiences in a focused and monitored
environment (see “Flat Classroom
Projects” on page 13). All students and
teachers should conduct themselves in
a professional and culturally sensitive
manner. This includes the types of avatars they choose, the styles of language
they use, and the quality of material
Sometimes participants slip into a
social-network mode of communicating. They may use textspeak or even
inappropriate language, or they might
upload pictures that are not acceptable
in all global classrooms. This is where
teachers must monitor in an engaged
It is not enough to open the gate
and let the sheep out to wander aimlessly. The role of the teacher is to
gather, lead by example, and make
sure students don’t cross the line.
When misunderstandings happen,
teachers must coach students about
responsibility and sensitivity.
Have a plan. In Flat Classroom projects, teachers strictly moderate all online collaborative and networking sites
for membership and content. When
students step over the line, all teachers
understand the process to deal with it.
The person who discovers the of-
fensive material makes a screenshot
of the item, such as a picture or com-
ment, shares it with the student’s
classroom teacher, and reports it to
space administrators, who remove it.
The classroom teacher decides the ap-
propriate action, which may include
asking the student to apologize to the
educational network or, in some cases,
suspending or even banning the stu-
dent from the network.
Overcoming the fear factor. Testing
the waters of digital citizenship can
be turbulent—not unlike a rafting
trip one of us took last summer with
a group of kids, including two beginners, on a North Carolina river.
Although the river has mostly Class
1 and Class 2 rapids (which are easier
to navigate), the Class 3 rapids were
right at the beginning. The two inexperienced students hit the first white-water and began to scream. As they
yelled, they could not hear the guide
coaching them about what to do, and
they threw their paddles up in the air.
Without paddles, their raft turned
sideways and dumped them into the
frigid water. They were pulled out five
minutes later cursing and swearing
that they’d never raft again.
We use this analogy to illustrate that
the toughest waters often come at the
beginning of this digital citizenship
journey. Our biggest opposition and
hardest questions came before the
implementation. Sure, there are still
rapids we must navigate, but we are
more proficient now.
When you start out, realize that
you are not alone. Others have navi-
gated the waters of connecting their
classrooms and immersing their stu-
dents in authentic digital citizenship
experiences. Learn from them. They
can show you the way to go and alert
you to the pitfalls. You might just find
that it is an enjoyable experience.
Dealing with objections. Is “Internet
safety” an oxymoron? How about
“traffic safety” or “hunter’s safety”?
Life is full of risk, which is why most
new drivers are expected to take a
driver education course. Unsafe drivers cause accidents, whereas educated
drivers make the roads safer. Likewise,
educating students makes the Internet
a safer place.
When should we begin educating
students? As soon as they start using digital tools for communication,
collaboration, and creation through
connections online or offline. A
kindergartener can use Skype in the
classroom and learn about virtual
communications. A 6-year-old can
create a Voice Thread project and collaborate globally using images and
sound. A 9-year-old can create a digital portfolio and invite peers globally
to respond via the discussion tab. Digital citizenship awareness can begin as
soon as tiny fingers tap the keys.
Privacy levels and the information
that students are allowed to disclose
should be age appropriate. But resist