Friday, January 20, 2012

Importance of Student Voice

When school districts and/or campuses decide to take the leap into social media they often do so after a great deal of consideration.  While I am of the 'dive right in' and 'just do it' mentality, I understand why some are more cautious.  And yet there is one thing that is consistently left out of these articles and decisions.  Students.  Being proactive and knowing what your own limitations is important and helpful.  It is even more important that students are included in the process.   They can be included in various parts of the process, from start to finish.  But the most important part of the process they need to be involved in is determining how to appropriately use it.

When it comes to deciding what can be posted on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube go to the students.  They'll be able to tell you that.  They use social networks often enough that they can easily identify what is offensive or improper.  If you want to ensure that f-bombs won't be thrown around online when social media is being used in (or out ) of the classroom, go to the kiddos.  They will be the first ones to state what type of language should be used online.   The same can be said about sharing content.  While students may need a bit of assistance identifying copyrighted materials and how to share them, they are fully aware of what it means to 'rip off' someone else's work.

One of the biggest reasons why districts have been reluctant to embrace social media is because of cyber cruelty.  The deaths of Phoebe Prince, Tyler Clementi, and Megan Meier have shown the degrees of cruelty (intended or not) that kiddos can inflict on others.  However, kiddos of all ages do know how important it is to be kind to others.  In fact, they want to be kind to others (even though sometimes things get in the way of that).  Every year I create online guidelines with my students, they inevitably come up with something that has to do with being kind, honest, and/or respectful.  They want to do it, and they can do it.  We just have to hold them accountable.

Safety can also be a concern.  Understandably so with how we are frightened, on a daily basis, by stories of online predators.  Truth be told, over the years we have done a bang up job teaching kiddos about stranger danger.  Such a good job that they know that caution has to be extended online.  When I ask my students about how to stay safe online they always have great insight and suggestions!  They know not to talk to strangers.  They also know that they should be keeping some things private.  But what they don't know is how to do that.

Today's students are not only more intuitive when it comes to using technology, but they are also more aware of how to behave online.  They know that they need to be positive, honest, and kind.  They know they should be using language that is appropriate for their age and school.  They know they need to keep some things personal and private.  They know they need to think when they are online.  What these articles need  to be saying and what districts need to be outlining, is how we are going to listen to what our students already know and then build off of that.