Flat Connections

Transforming learning through global collaboration

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Team members: Tracey Bryant, Roseanne Madden, Grace Valentine, Mark Meyers

Should Digital Social Awareness Be Taught in School?  (Mark’s personal views on social awareness)
In real life, we are taught how to behave socially.  Our families, teachers, and friends all contribute to our learning acceptable ways to behave around others.  When we move to more indirect ways of communication, such as the telephone, we learn proper behavior with this tool as well. But how many of us learn the proper way to behave in the digital world? Since much digital communication is asynchronous, we don’t always know our audience or how to act.  This is especially true with children. Further, the rapidly changing forms of digital communication only add to the difficulty.  As an example, text messaging is especially problematic. While convenient, it lends itself to being very casual and indirect. This has led to “text speak” becoming prevalent and spilling over into email messages and even oral language.

In reading the book on page 106, it talks about etiquette and respect when it comes to social awareness.  Not using all caps or text speak in communications and putting down technology in face-to-face situations are issues I encounter all the time at school and at home. I am in the process of teaching students age 10-11 how to use their new Google accounts.  One of the first lessons is on email etiquette.  Right off the bat, they are using slang, caps, and text speak.  It’s going to take quite a while to get them to use proper spelling and grammar because of the novelty of the tools.  Below is the text I received from one of my 5th grade students:



Guiding questions for students..

Social Awareness: Etiquette and Respect Topics
Etiquette: Am I aware of the appropriate use of certain technologies in different social contexts? Am I polite to others present when answering a mobile phone call in public? Do I understand that ALL CAPS is considered shouting in online communications? Am I careful with sarcasm and humor online?

Respect: Am I willing to focus on face-to-face people and put down technology at appropriate times to facilitate bonding with others?

Tracey’s Comments:
I believe that Digital Citizenship and Social Awareness are very important aspects of creating global projects but also in general for learning. Basic skills must be taught schools. I have created a Pinterest Board with resources for Digital Literacy within my Pinterest Board.
Maybe we could create a top 10 list for resources and/or articles related to Citizenship and Social Awareness. For me it also about the Digital FootPrint and what that can mean to students. At our school we have also created parent coffees and a parent tech training to support our BYOD program.

Grace on teaching morality, online or F2F

There is a conference on global citizenship and technology 3rd week in
March, in Las Vegas.  http://www.dev-resources.com/search_new?symposium=13 The promotional literature talks all about bullies and all the other digital dilemmas we negotiate in education.  As I reflect on the reading and comments from last night’s discussion I come back to the idea that focusing on technology is like
focusing on your desk.  

Technology just extends the reach, and as Mark
says, what we do F2F is the starting point for compassionate, empathetic
communication.  Language arts folks have been teaching these ‘soft’ skills
forever, but surreptitiously since the narrow views of literacy rolled out
with the privatization movement masquerading as reform have left us all
feeling like criminals for doing our jobs.  Now, add a layer of computers
and internet and see if it helps us get back to the business of educating
the young ones out of their delusions about world dominance and the
importance of getting and spending.

Civility seems to have gone by way in many of our exchanges, both digital and real.  And standards for civility are fluid, age-specific and subject to a multitude of contexts, all of which change the roles and requirements for interlocutors.  Not that we teachers have a lot to do with online dating, but that is one milieu the sociolinguists will mine for decades.  The way we represent ourselves in virtuality is affected, but we have yet to codify just how.

For years now I have noticed that if I am standing at a customer service counter and the phone rings, the clerk takes the call and makes me wait.  I have also noticed that if I approach the counter and the clerk is on the phone, very seldom do they make eye contact or acknowledge me in any way.  So, yes, we should teach students how to be human.  I think a lot of parents could use these classes too, now that I think of it.

Oh, sarcasm and humor !?!  I usually settle for gratuitous punctuation and emoticons - none of which plays with sarcastic and humorous double meaning, unless you  know me personally,.  I have had a bit of experience in the rooms, a favorite is Sarlo’s Guru Raters.  www3.telus.net/public/sarlo/RatingsD.htm  Moderators help with civility, but the list posters really set the tone and standard.  Sarlo’s is a pretty free flow list and tolerant and funny.  For a priggish, snarkey romp I can link you to a list for gifted adults - what a downer that was!

As I read thru the document I find that I am really bored by lit review conversation.  All the brain science stuff is pretty well known, what I am looking for in this blog are salient personal experiences, maybe problems that have yet to be solved, real stories about virtual life as it pertains to civility.  Honestly, I can’t see a difference between teaching manners live and teaching them virtually.  Teachers are doing what parents can’t, won’t and don’t.  As society becomes vile and contemptuous, teachers are picking up the slack.

Mark’s description of his experiences exemplifies the point - students have no sense of what the linguists call register.  I teach register like wardrobe, slang is the underwear and formal speech is the Brooks Brothers three-piece.  And yes, students push back hard and insist that the only way they like to communicate is the only way there is.  And parents, fearful of being old bags of wind, often word up and pass on sophistication and formality.

I think defining the target audience of the blog is really important as this shapes what we write. Then, I think we should develop a number of guiding questions and then each contribute 300 words to a question. We could title our blog ‘Developing Social Awareness in Young Digital Citizens’, for example, and target educators. I really like the strategies you have already mentioned Tracy and Mark. Mark you could perhaps focus on language as your topic and expand on some of what you have already said. I have written some information about cybersafety (in relation to the “rays of understanding” - safety, privacy, copyright, fair use, legal - I can add more if needed. Are you okay about my entry below or would you like me to write something different?

Creating Safe Environments for all
Whilst some teachers are embracing social networking and collaborative work in the classroom, encouraging students to publish their work for an authentic audience and to work with peers in a virtual environment others are frightened of the ramifications of allowing students ‘free’ reign. Bullying online is a very real threat for many students. Nagle’s (2011) research indicates that earlier development of the back of the brain and later development of the front of the brain impacts on the adolescent’s ability to manage their impulses and their judgement which means they often text or post before thinking about the consequences of their actions. Adolescents use less of the prefrontal cortex than adults when reading emotions and when confronted with a feeling, say that somebody looks at them with an expression of fear, an adolescent will have more of an emotional response which in turn causes them to 'act out' and in the cyberworld this can often mean angry status updates or text messages. Crook (2012) highlights that students concerns about potential bullying associated with publishing material online can prevent them from fully utilising web 2.0 technology.

Latest statistics in the South Australian Lutheran Schools ‘Cybersafety Survey’ (2011) indicate that cyberbullying is on the rise with over 90% of Year 8 students citing that they have been the ‘victim of cyberbullying at least once in the last 12 months’ (p 3). The exponential growth of sites like ‘Facebook’ has meant that students have new ways to ‘bully’ and those ways mean that they don’t need to face students or see the impact of their words. Banning sites like ‘Facebook’ in the school doesn't work as students are simply able to access the site using 3G on their smart phones or post when they get home. It is more important to teach our students how to use these sites wisely. We need to teach our students the implications of sharing personal details online including age, address and phone numbers and that their online profiles, their status updates and the photos they post can have very real implications for when they apply for jobs. Teachers need to ensure that we educate about the safe and responsible use of internet based tools, the development of their digital footprint and that parents know their rights, responsibilities and strategies for managing devices at home. We need to clearly define where the learning is happening to ensure virtual spaces are safe and responsible for all.

Crook, C. 2012. 'The ‘digital native’ in context: tensions associated with importing Web 2.0 practices into the school setting'.Oxford Review Of Education. 38(1). pp. 63-80.

Lutheran Education Australia. 2011. Lutheran Schools South Australia Cybersafety Survey 2011. Adelaide

Nagel, M.C. 2010. 'The middle years learner's brain'. In N. Bahr & D. Pendergast (Eds). Teaching Middle Years: Rethinking Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment - 2nd edition, pp.86-100. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.

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Comment by Julie Lindsay on March 21, 2013 at 12:04pm

Relevant and provoking comments and shared research. We are all on a learning curve in terms of social awareness in the digital world, and how to communicate effectively should be on the top of everyone's agenda. I know one of my school heads in the past tended to use all caps for emails, and when I commented that this was a form of online shouting, the information unfortunately was nto well received. Who decided on that convention anyway I wonder?

I am curious as to your style of writing, with each person taking a stance and sharing thoughts and resources.

Well done!

Project Manager
Comment by Yvonne Caples on March 7, 2013 at 6:25pm

I love this question Mark, "But how many of us learn the proper way to behave in the digital world?"

I think we are still trying to figure out how to navigate in this digital world that enables 24/7 connection...learning to set aside devices, being present in face-to-face communication and taking time away from our devices are important skills students need to learn.  Your essential questions to discuss with students are vital to helping students learn how to behave in the digital world.

Comment by Mark Meyers on March 6, 2013 at 5:45am

Face-to-face skills are important enough to our school that our administration has decided to wait until students are in 1st grade before they come to my computer lab for classes.  They feel hands-on and social skills are more important than technology skills at that age.  As a father of two boys, age 2 and 5, I tend to agree...even though I am the technology teacher.

Project Manager
Comment by Sandy Wisneski on March 6, 2013 at 2:04am

Face to face is so important and it is a skill that needs to be taught. It is part of how to respect others. The need to teach these skills will continue to grow but you pointed out some excellent resources.

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